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All about timing for Stewart
Audley Boyd, Assistant Sport Editor
FOR Kerron Stewart, it's all about timing. From the way she schedules her training and the very minutes around it, the national 100 metres women's champion carefully prioritises, fitting the little details into place to complement her overall perspective. "You learn the meaning of time when you go to college," admits the former St Jago High athlete, who graduated from Auburn University in the United States, a couple months ago. "You've to work on a time schedule."
Such is life in the fast lane, especially when doubling in the classroom. Nothing can be left to chance and for Stewart, the road to being champion starts at the training ground.
"I'm a perfectionist," she notes. "I always want to get things right at practice because when you get it right at practice it's just a repetition when you go to the meets."
Then, she works step by step towards her goal, fully aware of strides made by her outstanding countrywomen who had blazed the trail.
"Watching Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert, Juliet Campbell, Grace Jackson and all those athletes I always see myself doing what they've done for Jamaica," she remarked of the Jamaican Olympic and World Championship medal winners.
"They all started out being the national champion first, so I think I'm on the right track."
Stewart won the 100 metres title at the national trials in 10.80 seconds, finishing ahead of Shelly-Ann Frazer (10.85) and Sherone Simpson (10.87). Fourth, surprisingly, was Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.88), the Olympic 200m and World Championship 100m gold medallist.
"I've the utmost respect for Veronica Campbell, not just because she's the Olympic and World Champion but just because of how she approaches the sport. I also have a lot of respect for the other athletes, but I knew that if I put that behind me, this (winning) would've been the outcome," said the two-time, sprint double (100m, 200m) winner at Champs.
"It's a good motivation for me. It just shows that I'm there and this is what I'm capable of doing," added Stewart, a product of John Mills All-Age and Junior High, who was also quite good at football when she transferred to St Jago.
Her coach, Henry Rolle, actually believed Stewart was ready to run close to 10.80 at the trials this year.
"Based on what she's been doing this year I figure she'd have run 2/10ths faster, probably 10.83," he said. "But sometimes when you get into the type of setting it pushes you.
"She's a great competitor, she runs well with the rounds," added Rolle, who is responsible for coaching the female sprinters at Auburn, where Stewart has really excelled.
This year she hit a new level while representing Auburn by winning the 60m, 200m double at the NCAA and SEC meets then named the National Indoor, South Region Indoor and SEC Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. She was just as impressive in 2006, winning Outdoor and Indoor All-American, SEC Indoor and Outdoor, Mideast Region, South District Outdoor and South Region Indoor Track Athlete of the Year titles.
And her personal bests over the last year have bolted - from 11.03 in '07 to 10.80 over 100m; and from 22.41 to 21.99 in the 200m.
Besides winning the 100, Stewart ran her personal best in the 200m as runner-up at the Jamaica Nationals behind Campbell-Brown and recently she provided more proof of her Beijing readiness with a 22.34 victory in the longer sprint at a Golden League meeting in Rome.
"I believe solely in God. I put everything in His hands, I can't do anything without Him," she said philosophically. "I have no doubt in my abilities because my abilities are not in man's hands, but in God's.
"Not only track, but life is about training, it's all about how you approach and do stuff."
And just what is her outlook on the upcoming Olympics in Beijing next month.
"... I won't be changing nothing. I'm going there to compete," remarked Stewart confidently.
"In terms of my physical achievements, on the track I want to win an individual medal at the Olympics. Winning an individual medal at the Olympics is no longer a want for me, I wanted that 6-7 years ago. Now it's a need," said Stewart.
"It's the goal, it's the plan, it's my dream."
Sprint relay gold
The 24-year-old was a member of Jamaica's World Championships sprint quartet that won silver in Osaka last year. She also has a World Junior Champs sprint relay gold (2002), another World Junior Champs 4x100m silver (2000), World Youth Champs (2001) medley relay silver, as well as World Youth Champs (2001) 100m silver.
"When we line up behind the blocks everything that we've done before doesn't mean nothing. The only thing that matters is who crosses that finish line first," she added.
Rolle, who also coaches the Bahamas women's sprinters, is confident in his charge's staying power.
"I personally feel that she's a championship runner. With her metabolism, she's definitely built for the rounds ... and she's a great listener and observer.
"It's all about staying healthy and staying motivated and more than anything you've to be less distracted," he added. "When you win a Jamaican sprint crown the attention of the world comes along.
"I've coached a lot of sprinters and Kerron might not have been the most talented, but she's more self-motivated and disciplined - disciplined in terms of priorities, listening and observation."
The Rome victory further manifested those qualities unknown to the distant observer. But the major preparation, Stewart says, takes place beyond the spotlight of those glossy track meetings.
"I'll be running the circuit just to stay in shape."
She has two more prep races over 100m before the Olympics, on July 26 in London and the 28th in Monaco.
"That's just a part of what's going to help me to stay in shape," she pointed out. "You win your races in the fall. In the fall is when you have the most important part of your training, all those 300s and 400s that I have to run."
Her observation skills are not strange. After all, she did a Major in Education and Minor in Sports Coaching. Now that the goal has shifted, so has her focus and recognition.
"I learnt that track and field is mental. If you really know that much about track then you'll know that everything's about timing, right now is the moment. So you've to make the most of your moment because tomorrow's not guaranteed."