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Track and Field’s Stewart looks to end her collegiate career with a bang

Track and Field’s Stewart looks to end her collegiate career with a bang

May 05
02:56 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

As the sun soaked into the Fouts Field track, senior Chastity Stewart and her teammates gathered for a post-practice talk. Stewart had always drawn with chalk after practices throughout her career, but this time, head coach Carl Sheffield had a special assignment in mind.

Before heading to Wichita, Kansas, that weekend, Sheffield asked his team to write on the ground the times they wanted to run. There were three meets left before the Conference USA Championships for Mean Green track and field, and Stewart had her mind locked in on setting records in the 100-meter hurdles with a personal-record time: 13.24.

She didn’t quite make her goal.

“I didn’t run that time, but I just didn’t execute,” Stewart said. “I still felt like the time was coming.”

Stewart’s 13.49 mark at the K.T. Woodman Classic was still good for a first place finish, but her thirst for greatness hadn’t yet been quenched.

Just one week later, the Whitehouse, Texas, native notched her third first-place finish in the same event, clocking in exactly where she envisioned herself: 13.24.

“To be able to go to Oklahoma and run the time that I wrote down, it was very inspiring,” Stewart said. “It felt like everything was starting to pay off.”

Stewart’s relentless persistence has helped her become one of the most decorated hurdlers in North Texas history. In Norman, Oklahoma, she se the John Jacobs Invitational meet record as she earned the C-USA’s Track Athlete of the Week It was the first time Stewart won the award, becoming the first Mean Green track and field athlete to be recognized since 2008.

But Stewart’s journey to greatness hasn’t been picture-perfect. She arrived to North Texas at the same time as Sheffield, in 2011. She was a freshman looking to make the transition from high school basketball and volleyball to running collegiate track full-time. Her athletic ability was never a doubt for Sheffield, but he said the amount she’s grown as a competitor and as a person has surpassed his biggest expectations.

However, preventing injury has arguably been Stewart’s biggest hurdle. After missing the majority of the 2014-15 season, she came back for her fourth year of eligibility as a graduate student this year.

Business Administration senior Chastity Stewart poses for a photo on Fouts Field. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Business administration senior Chastity Stewart poses for a photo on Fouts Field. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

“Every other year it seems like she’s been injured – major injuries that would almost keep her from coming out to compete and train,” Sheffield said. “She’s always worked her way through.”

With five to six days of practice per week, almost all track and field athletes deal with nagging injuries each season. But injury is only a small obstacle as long as athletes don’t let it diminish their motivation, Stewart said.

“It’s easy to lose faith in the training process. I’ve done that before,” Stewart said. “This year it was just trusting coach Sheffield, trusting my body and trusting that God is going to work everything out.”

That same mindset has turned Stewart into one of the strongest leaders for the Mean Green. She said she was more of a vocal leader early in her career but has shifted her focus to leading by example as an upperclassman, making sure she shows up early and maintains good grades.

“I think there’s some natural [leadership] instincts inside of her,” Sheffield said. “As she’s gotten older, the diversity of the team has changed a little bit, but she continues to find some of those little pieces, those apples, that come out. And they kind of rise up to her because of her ability.”

One teammate who has benefitted greatly from Stewart is junior Jazmine Martin. The third-year jumper had never been part of a running event until joining Stewart’s 4×100-meter relay team this season, and said she’s always looked up to Stewart as a role model and friend.

“I’m an outcast for the 4×4,” Martin said. “She made it welcoming because she was a senior, and it was my first time actually being able to do it. She made it easier for me just by trusting me.”

The team of four had two second place finishes and one first place finish in April, finding its stride right in time for the C-USA Championships from May 12 to 15. And if Stewart’s steady improvement and school-record 100-meter hurdle time of 13.03 last weekend at the Bobcat Classic is a sign of things to come, even more records could be broken.

“The seniors who have been there before and know what it’s like, they feel the energy start to come up,” Sheffield said. “This is the time of year where you’ve got to get it going.”

After postseason play, Stewart’s future is up in the air. She will be graduating with a master’s degree in business administration this summer and hopes to start a career in the public relations industry for an entertainment news outlet.

However, she hasn’t ruled anything out quite yet. If she is able to qualify for the Olympic trials this summer and move on to national competition, Sheffield said she’s capable of becoming one of the top hurdlers in the country.

“It would be my dream,” Stewart said. “I think if the universe kind of guides me that way, I’ll definitely go. I’m just going to continue to put in work and hopefully the numbers come out. If I can continue my [athletic] career, I’ll definitely hop on that train.”

Featured Image: Graduate student Chastity Stewart was a part of the third-place distance medley relay at the C-USA Indoor Championships in 2014-2015. Courtesy | North Texas Athletics 

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