Throughout Lesleigh Hogg’s coaching career, he has coached nine Olympians representing four different countries. At the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, he aims to increase that number and maybe even be there in person. One of the track athletes working with Hogg at Monroe College is Zakiya Denoon, a sprinter from Trinidad and Tobago who recently received NJCAA National Runner of the Week honors.
“She has a lot of desire and wants to be good. That makes her extremely coachable,” said Hogg, who is in his second year at Monroe. “Even with talent, some athletes aren’t ready to change things, to adapt to a new situation. She understands everyone is concerned about her wellbeing and her advancing both academically and athletically.”
Denoon, who is studying business, said she chose to attend Monroe to get a good training situation and valuable competitive experience. In her first indoor track and field season, she has already qualified for the NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in 60 and 200 meters, setting Monroe school records in both distances. At 5-foot-10, Denoon is tall for a sprinter, but she says it all comes down to determination.
“I’m trying to make the Olympic team this year,” said Denoon, 20, who has had international experience. “I trust in God and know anything is possible. I’m working towards reaching that goal. … I realize [Trinidad has] a competitive team.”
The other Monroe track athletes with Olympic aspirations are Susan Ejore, a middle-distance runner from Kenya, and Nokuthula Dlamini, a distance runner from South Africa. Hogg said it’s exciting to work with athletes with high aspirations and great potential. He said a main thing for Denoon is to make her stronger. She’s working with weights and the results have been almost immediate.
“You don’t have the opportunity to coach kids of that level very often,” Hogg said. “When you do and you both see the possibilities, it makes every day an adventure because you know you’re working for a goal that not a lot of people see coming to fruition.
“You’re lucky to come across one of those kids who is part of that 1 percent that are really talented athletes and really want to work hard,” he added. “You put something in front them, a dream, and actually get there. That makes working with them extremely easy.”