The following article was written by Kevin Mobley for Georgiadogs.com. To view the original article, click here.
Leslie Boozer has thrived on racing her entire life.
The former distance runner for the Georgia cross country and track and field teams (2009-2014) has competed in her fair share of contests. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Boozer began running in the seventh grade to train for basketball, and emerged as an All-State performer at Mountain Brook High School. She eventually reached the 2008 Nike Indoor Nationals in the mile run.
During her time in Athens, Boozer helped lead the 2012 cross country team to its first NCAA Championships in five years under distance coach Patrick Cunniff. On the track, she notched a silver medal in the 3000-meter steeplechase at the 2013 SEC Outdoors on the way to qualifying for NCAA Outdoors.
Now, Boozer is facing a new challenge: the race against COVID-19.
Following her graduation from UGA, Boozer moved to Austin, Texas, to run professionally with the Rogue Athletic Club. While with the team, she served as a medical assistant with the club’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ted Spears.
She soon traded her spikes for a stethoscope. After two years with the club, Boozer moved out west to complete a one-year accelerated nursing program at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus.
Today, Boozer treats patients as a cardiac unit nurse at Rose Medical Center in Denver. Her shifts include trips to the intensive care unit and the designated COVID floor. In that unit, the nurses wear N-95 masks, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe/hair covers.
“It’s pretty brutal. It’s like things you see on T.V.,” Boozer said. “If you saw what we see in the hospital every day, it would be a no-brainer to stay home.”
On her days off, Boozer keeps in touch with friends and family, including teammates from the cross country team: Carly Hamilton, Sarah Perry, Savannah Kirk, Morgan VanGorder, Megan Malasarte and many others.
In the fight against COVID-19, Boozer is taking on a new race. Just like her time at Georgia, she’s seeing the results.
“After a patient’s three-week battle with COVID, being on a ventilator, not being able to see their family, we get to celebrate a discharge. They’re going home to people they didn’t know if they would be able to see again,” Boozer said. “Those are certainly the days where I know this is why I decided to be a nurse.”
“I love thriving under pressure,” Boozer said. “I think that comes out in athletics, but also in acute care in medicine.”
At a young age, Boozer was drawn to helping others. Her mom reminded her of a car accident where she immediately checked on the person in the other car. Boozer also loved basketball, dishing out assists to her teammates as the MBHS point guard and captain.
Arriving at college from out-of-state was challenging, though, and she struggled in her first year.
“It was work, work, work the first year, and I just wasn’t seeing the results. It was infuriating,” Boozer said “It almost got to the point where I was like, ‘What am I doing?'”
Under the guidance of Cunniff’s training program and the support of her team, she emerged to help lead the Bulldogs to NCAAs and other new heights.
“Coach Cunniff and I just really connected. He understood me and I understood him,” Boozer said. “Instantly, when he got to Georgia, I was seeing incredible improvement. That was the first time that I was like, ‘O.K., this is what it’s really all about.'”
Boozer completed her collegiate career and graduated in May 2014 with degrees in genetics and biology. She earned SEC Academic Honor Roll four consecutive years and finished with a 3.7 GPA in nursing school.
“Athletes who are super dedicated to the sport are also just super dedicated in other areas of life, whether it be academics, relationships or family,” Boozer said. “I consistently found that your work ethic on the track carried over to school.”