N. Babylon's Stewart dominates shot put, discus
Vanessa Stewart strolls to the shot put pit, a woman among girls in this mostly anonymous pursuit.
She unleashes the 8.81-pound metal ball, and it soars. The officials trudge back 10 feet farther than they would for an average thrower. They crack a smile and shake their head, dumbfounded that a teenage girl could hurl a metal orb so far. The coaches and fellow competitors are used to this drill by now.
Stewart, North Babylon's senior shot put ace and three-time Suffolk County champion, earned her fourth trip upstate by winning the Section XI State Qualifier at Port Jefferson High School. Her best throw, 47-11/4 feet, outpaced her nearest competitor by nearly eight feet.
For good measure, Stewart also won the discus with a throw of 131-10.
However, she dominates in relative anonymity, a result of shot put's relative lack of appeal. "Doesn't bother me because I'm only really thinking about myself," Stewart said. "I'm just here to reach my goal of 50 feet."
Stewart is stoic and business-like in the pit. She steps to the circle, spins and fires and then ambles to pick up her ball. Waiting is friend Andrea Carter to give Stewart her glasses and hold an umbrella over her head. Rinse, wash and repeat.
But her drive to succeed comes from the most basic of human insecurities.
"I don't want to look dumb in front of a whole bunch of people," Stewart said.
It is the relative loneliness of the pit that appeals to Stewart. "She likes the individual nature of shot put," North Babylon girl's coach Jim DiSalvo said. "If she does well, she gets the credit. If she does badly, she has no one to blame but herself."
Stewart is aiming for bigger things. She lists her goals as if she's reciting a grocery list. "I want to win states. I want to win nationals. I want to win everything."
Even if she does, she still might never escape anonymity. And that suits Vanessa Stewart just fine.
Junior Mary Kate Anselmini of Ward Melville won the 2000-meter steeplechase in 6:45.50. After missing the winter season with an illness, Anselmini now has the fastest steeplechase time in New York. She will be the favorite to win at next weekend's New York State Federation meet in Vestal, N.Y.
Freshman Nicole Hamilton of Glenn won the 400 in a time of 56.92.
In a close 800-meter race, Longwood's Jennifer Johnston took first in 2:11.93. Rachel Paul (2:12.17) of Sachem East edged Danielle Rowe (2:12.18) of Bay Shore to finish second.
Longwood ran 48.94 to win the 4 x 100 relay. The team of Olivia Hallstein, Bianca Benavides, Jordyn Holt and Briana Munoz outpaced Bay Shore by .05 seconds. Hallstein also won the 100 (12.31) and 200 (24.51).
Brentwood's Donna Jeanty won the IM hurdles (59.37) and broke the county record of 59.88, held by Shannon Weeks of Sachem. Jeanty's time was tops in New York and second-best in the nation, according to coach Norman Daniels. Brentwood also set a county record in the 4 x 400 relay with a time of 3:51.19.