Hornet Darts to Two TitlesPublished March 12, 2001 in The Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Heather Stevens, a Junior at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, was the star attraction at last Saturday's New York State High School Indoor Track and Field Championship at the Carrier Dome on the Syracuse University campus. Despite a third-place seed entering the competition, Stevens beat the odds to win two individual events in personal record time.
Stevens started the day having qualified to run in the 55-meter dash and the 300-meter sprint, as well as the Section 3 4x400-meter relay. If all went well, she would have faced the prospects of racing up to six times in one day: a preliminary round, a semifinal and a final in the 55-meter dash; a preliminary round and a final in the 300-meter sprint; and the final of the 4x400 relay. Unfortunately, the relay team for Section 3, minus Stevens, did not advance into the finals, allowing her to concentrate on her individual events.
Stevens moved comfortably through the 55-meter preliminary rounds, and qualified for the final with a fast enough time for a good lane in the final. She ran the final with a confident stride, crossing the finish line first in 7.18 seconds.
There was not much time for rest. Stevens loosened up, and prepared for the 300-meter trials. Her goal was simply to advance to the final, which she did with a second place finish in her heat.
I ran into Stevens after the 300-meter trials, as she received praise and advice from her coach. "This is your last race today. Give it everything that you have." Stevens listened intently for affirmation of her chances to pull an upset. Two girls in the field had run faster times this season.
Stevens' trial time placed her in lane 6 of this eight-lane one-and-a-half-turn stagger. When the starter fired the gun, she accelerated into the first turn and quickly attacked the short straightaway. By the end of the second turn, she had made up the stagger on the runners ahead of her, and maintained her position relative to those behind her. It is not always easy telling the leader in a staggered race, but there was no doubt in this one. Stevens had taken the lead.
She attacked the last turn with poise and determination, giving it her all on the home stretch. She ran strong, her head high, her hair blowing in the wind of her 17 mile per hour final dash. The Dome erupted in cheer as the hometown crowd carried her across the finish line. Her official time of 39.91 seconds was a personal record, and earned her a second State championship title.
Following her double victory, the only double-winner in these championships, Stevens talked about the future. Her academic goals revolve around the business aspects of the health profession, while her track ambition points to a handful of running powerhouses like Villanova, Georgetown and Duke.
In the meantime, Central New York will have three more seasons to watch Stevens run and cheer her on, through the upcoming outdoor season and into her senior year.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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