St. Louis teen goes for the gold in Israel

Jacob Lefton (second from right) celebrates winning gold with his teammates after Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Lefton.


Jacob Lefton, a junior at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, can’t remember the first time he played hockey. He doesn’t recall his first hit, goal, assist or shot. All he knows is that for his entire life, hockey has been important. 

“There was not a specific instance that made me realize I love to play hockey,” Jacob said. “I simply never found any other activity that compared to it.”

For Jacob, the best part of hockey has been the team aspect. Nothing feels better than when he is around his teammates, celebrating goals and winning games.

“I think it’s definitely a very tough sport physically, and it’s very hard on your body, but being on a team that gets you through it is why you want to keep going through the injuries that happen,” he said.

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This summer, Jacob traveled with the United States Under 18 team to Jerusalem for the Maccabiah Games, a quadrennial sporting tournament with 10,000 participating athletes. Jacob and the team won the first place trophy.

“Jerusalem was very interesting to me,” he said. “ I had never been to Israel, and the description that I got from people was not even close to what I experienced.  The most interesting part to me was how they kept the old feeling of the city and how [the city] was preserved.” 

Jacob was surprised at how quickly he and his U-18 teammates grew together as a group during the tournament. He said their experience together was comparable to those of his teams in St. Louis.

 “It would seem like it would be a lot different than with a regular team, but we gelled really quickly, and that’s why we were successful,” he said. 

Matt Cowley, a junior at MICDS, is Jacob’s teammate on their school hockey team. Matt said Jacob’s infectious attitude drives their team to succeed each time they step on the ice.

“He definitely sets the standard for how hard we should be working every night,” Matt said. “When the guys see that, we all play better.”

Matt said that hard-working mentality is what makes Jacob an important leader for his team.

“[Jacob] is the kind of guy that you want to play with,” Matt said. “I’ve never seen him take a shift off.”

Charlie Mohr, head coach of the varsity hockey team, said Jacob’s on ice achievements are made more impressive when looking at his academic record.

“With MICDS being such a high standard with academics you would never be able to tell with the way that he brings himself and presents himself to practice that he is always prepared and always has a great attitude,” Mohr said. “He brings that next level to the team.” 

Mohr said Jacob’s greatest contribution to his team comes in the form of leadership. He’s always been a dependable player and student.

“His leadership skills are just above and beyond with his experience,” Mohr said. “He is always willing to lend a helping hand with the younger kids and teach them a certain drill, basically he will work with them and he is just a really mature player and student. He has helped bring the program back to where it needs to be.”