Track standout completes her late mother’s wishes, graduates from Middletown

Leelah McGuire, 17, graduated from Middletown High School this year at Barnitz Stadium, two years after her mother died. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Leelah McGuire, 17, graduated from Middletown High School this year at Barnitz Stadium, two years after her mother died. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Leelah McGuire lost her father, mother years apart, now plans to attend college.

Twelve days before she started her junior year at Middletown High School, Leelah McGuire’s mother Chawnda Hunter died unexpectedly.

Her father Lance Hunter died from cancer when she was in middle school.

“Very confused,” McGuire said when asked how she felt after her 50-year-old mother died on Aug. 1, 2020.

She was at a crossroads in her young life, faced with difficult decisions that overwhelm some teens. Luckily for McGuire, she was supported by her grandmother, Darlene Sutton, the “rock of our family,” her high school counselor Christa Wilson, those on the Middie track and field team and her two sisters, McKenzie McGuire, 19, and Raeven Davis, 26.

She also heard the constant sound of her mother’s voice whispering: “Make me proud and graduate.”

That’s exactly what she did on May 17 when she joined more than 300 students at Barnitz Stadium as members of the Class of 2022.

Wilson, who also coaches the discus and shot put athletes on the MHS track team, remembers those days after McGuire’s mother died. McGuire, now 17, would stop Wilson in the hallway or step into her office. She had questions and she sought answers from her counselor and coach.

“We always talked about making the right decisions and how one decision can affect your whole life,” said Wilson, who has worked in the Middletown City School District for six years. “She listened well.”

There are countless students walking the halls just like McGuire. Some will graduate, while others will drop out, never return and spend the rest of their lives regretting that decision.

At class reunions years from now, fellow students will ask: “Whatever happened to So-and-So?”

McGuire wants to make a name for herself. She plans to major in physical therapy at Alabama State University and try out for its women’s track team. At MHS, McGuire, one of the two captains, was a two-time district champion in shot put and placed 12th in the state meet.

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Leelah McGuire, a senior at Middletown High School, placed 12th in the shot put at this year's state track meet. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Leelah McGuire, a senior at Middletown High School, placed 12th in the shot put at this year's state track meet. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Combined ShapeCaption
Leelah McGuire, a senior at Middletown High School, placed 12th in the shot put at this year's state track meet. SUBMITTED PHOTO

While Wilson will remember how McGuire performed at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, she’s most proud of her academic success. McGuire was a student first, an athlete second.

“I had tears in my eyes,” she said about the graduation ceremony. “Just to see all the hard work day in and day out. I remember telling her, ‘You did it. Keep going.’”

That’s the life of a high school counselor. There are victories and there are losses. You try to remember the wins more.

“There are good students who are stuck in circumstances they’re not prepared for,” she said. “They just need a little guidance and help. You know, inspiration. I told her, ‘You can do this. Stay in the fight. It’s worth it in the end.’”

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