Hancock Goes Hollywood After Gymnastics Career
May 15, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
During her four years at NC State, Leigha Hancock enjoyed the acrobatic life of a champion gymnast.
Petite with an angelic countenance and a dare devil’s verve, she reveled in the tumbling and twisting, competing and performing and didn’t want to give all that up when her eligibility expired.
“I knew I wanted to do something performance wise,’’ said Hancock, who initially gave Cirque du Soleil a shot after graduating in 2008.
Turns out, she discovered something better. She landed a gymnast part on multiple episodes of ABC Family’s popular Make It Or Break It television show and that led to a stuntwoman role in the The Hunger Games, a box-office hit based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel.
“I did not think I would be doing stunts,’’ said Hancock, 25, who also is studying for a masters degree in dietetics at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford, Conn., and aspires to work in a hospital's oncology department.
In preparation for The Hunger Games, her training was arduous and included acrobatic high falls and Air Ram shoots. The bouncing, athletic background training at State was beneficial.
Called “one of the top three” gymnasts in Wolfpack history by 32-year head coach Mark Stevenson, Hancock was equipped for the soaring, leaping, flipping and fighting skills the producer demanded.
“I had to do a lot of fighting, sprinting, falling out of a net and jumping pillar to pillar with people trying to hit you with a javelin,’’ said Hancock, who was a District 7 Tribute in the movie that included actor Josh Hutcherson and actress Jennifer Lawrence.
In the movie, where only one young person survives numerous fights, Hancock died.
“It was cool,’’ she said.
Cool? Maybe, since it was a fake death.
Hancock called acting an adventure, fun and work. There were 10-hour days of hyperactivity decked out in jackets and long pants in 95-degree heat. And there was pressure to perform.
In some ways, more pressure than when she was doing a balance beam or floor exercise on the mats at State.
“You still have all the adrenalin. The whole set is watching you. Every time you have to reshoot, it cost money. You have to do it correctly. You want to make everybody happy,” said Hancock.
Hancock tends to make people happy.
At State she won a pair of NCAA regional championships (2006 on floor and 2008 on beam), earned 10 All-EAGL citations during her career, was the 2005 EAGL Rookie of the Year, and was named the 2008 NCAA Southeast Region Gymnast of the Year as a senior.
“I wish I could (go back) and do it again,’’ said Hancock, who treasures her time at State and credits Stevenson and former assistant Todd Henry with motivating and helping her reach a higher standard than she had envisioned.
“She was hard working, fun to be around, a great kid, a great athlete,’’ said Stevenson, who has stayed in touch with his former star pupil.
While Hancock “died” in The Hunger Games, she is very much alive and lively. Her summer plans include continuing to teach gymnastics and an August marriage to Bryan Moriarity, whom she knew from high school in Suffield, Conn.
And yes, she hopes to keep performing on TV or in the movies “as long as I can.”
By A.J. Carr, GoPack.com