Anton Stewart could easily have pulled out of track and field this season. After all, the William E. Hay Composite High School student already had a full plate this spring with his participation in 4-H competitions and the provincial Senior Bowl football game. Not to mention his graduation last Saturday.
Stewart, however, had no intention of skipping his final opportunity to participate in high school track.
“Track is one of my favourite sports to run,” Stewart said last week after qualifying for this week’s provincial high school championships in the senior boys’ 100- and 200-metre races.
“It’s an individual sport … I usually like the team sports, but I guess I’m fast enough, and if you put enough effort into it, you come out with some great stuff.”
Great results and exceptional effort have been hallmarks of Stewart’s high school career, especially as a senior. He sprinted his way to the medal podium last Wednesday at a soggy zone meet in Camrose, placing first in the 100 metres and second in the 200 metres.
He won the 100 in 11.85 seconds, edging DeMarcus Adamson of Lindsay Thurber of Red Deer (11.86).
In the 200, Stewart battled a right-leg injury to place second in 25.19 seconds, behind Lacombe’s Kyle Neilsen (23.75). Jeremy Page of Delburne finished fifth in that race (25.75).
“It was hard to warm up (because of the rainy weather), and my hamstring really tightened up,” said Stewart, 18. “My coach had to work on it before my 200. It felt like I couldn’t even walk to the 200 (start line). That’s why I got second. I could have got first. When I started around the first curve, my leg hurt so bad that I was about fourth or fifth, and then I decided I should let it all go because it was my last race of the day and I’d have a week to heal it up (for the provincials). I barely caught up to the guy that got third (Adamson).”
That second-place finish last Wednesday capped a busy three-day stretch for Stewart, who played with the victorious North team in the Senior Bowl on Victoria Day in Edmonton, and represented his Byemoor 4-H club in the district show and sale last Tuesday in Stettler. Late last week, he had a few final grand march practices with his fellow graduates.
“It’s been a long, long weekend,” said a smiling Stewart, who practised in Edmonton for three days before the Senior Bowl.
“After sports are done, I’m going to be feeling pretty bored. I’ll just be doing a lot of recreation jogging.”
“Sports has really kept me busy. I never have a dull moment. If I do have a day off, I either work here at the pool (as a lifeguard), or go work on the farm when Dad needs me. There’s always something to do.”
Stewart lives near Big Valley, about 25 minutes from Stettler. He’s the youngest of five siblings, all of them William E. Hay graduates.
He plans to study biological science at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus in Camrose, with hopes of becoming a teacher.
Much like his sporting involvement, he stuck to his rural roots and remained a 4-H member through his senior year of high school.
Last week was show time for the 4-H crowd.
“My calf wasn’t the best this year,” he said. “I was kind of disappointed, but you can’t make him eat any more or get any fatter. It’s all up to him.”
“But it was a good last year.”
Stewart had similar mixed emotions after representing his school in the Senior Bowl, a showcase of the top Grade 12 football players in the province.
“The practices and staying with the whole team and everything, it was really fun,” he said. “But, for the game, the defence was set up for passing, so we did a lot of running plays, so I didn’t get the ball. It was disappointing that way, but we still won, so it was exciting. It was a good accomplishment, just to be a part of that team.”
Stewart — five-foot-10 and about 165 pounds — was at slotback and the receivers coach was Norbert Baharally, otherwise the head coach and principal at William E. Hay. They were both big parts of the 2011 provincial Tier 3 champion Wildcats.
Stewart has played football and basketball since Grade 6.
“My brother (Aaron) would be the one that got me into sports,” he said. “I wanted to be like him.”
Although he grew up on a busy farm, Stewart has also managed an active schedule of sports and other extracurricular activities. He even made a 12-day trip to Uruguay, South America, in March as part of a Samaritan’s Purse project.
“It was an Operation Christmas Child ambassador trip,” he said. “We toured for the weekend a little bit, and then during the week we did Operation Christmas Child distributions.”
“We looked at some mission work they were doing in Uruguay, and then the next weekend we went back to the capital city of Montevideo for what was like their Calgary Stampede.”
“It was a little bit different, because instead of having the nice ferris wheels and games and stuff like that, they had little shacks and stores, like a farmers’ market kind of thing. It was just a main rodeo in one side of it.”
Bound for Foote Field in Edmonton for the high school track provincials Friday and Saturday, Stewart has already been a standout for more than his pink, long socks that he wore at the area and zone meets.
“My girlfriend gave them to me because I always wear long socks for baseball,” he said. “I thought it would be a good-luck charm to wear those at track, and I guess it worked.”
“I found they kept my legs warmer (during rainy conditions), so that was good, too.”
Stewart’s company at the provincials this week includes just one other William E. Hay athlete.
Grade 10 student Corey Garbutt qualified with a second-place finish in the junior girls’ 400 metres last week at the zones. Her time was 1:08.19.
JOHN MacNEIL, Independent editor