In just his first year as part of PCC’s track team, sophomore Stewart McKenzie is leading the way to victory as the team’s star performer and inspiration. He is admired by those who know him for his gentle, lamb-like personality off the track, and for his lion-like ferocity on the track.
McKenzie’s gift as a runner first became evident to him as a freshman at Eagle Rock High School, where he immediately fell in love with sprinting and long jumping, finding the movements both instinctive and meditative.
“As a little kid I was always hyper and running around, so it was just natural,” McKenzie said in an interview. “Every time I step on the track or run a race, there’s a point where I feel like I can’t go any faster or jump any farther, and I just try to push myself and think that there’s no limit for improvement. You just have to be aggressive and hungry.”
He descends from a bloodline of athletes; his father ran track, his mother did cross country, and his uncle currently holds a record for pole vaulting at Eagle Rock.
With the help and support of his family and team, McKenzie has already been deemed as the team’s best athlete by Coach Pat Williams and Sprinting Coach Miki Barber in only his first season at PCC.
“Statistically, he is probably our No. 1 performer,” Williams said. “Right now he’s our main cog. He’s a very versatile and multi-talented athlete.”
When told he was considered the best on the team, McKenzie laughed with joy and surprise. “That’s very interesting, because, you know, your coach is never going to tell you that. I don’t even think that myself. That’s a big ego boost.”
To him, running is more than a sport or competition, it’s a way to escape the stresses of life, challenge his abilities and feel proud of what he is capable of.
“It’s really just an outlet for me,” McKenzie said. “When I run, I feel like I can clear my mind. I can test my limits.”
McKenzie is currently the healthiest, fastest, and most hard working team member according to his coaches, making him a source of inspiration for his team mates.
“He inspires everybody else and he doesn’t complain, so we need him,” Barber said. “He’s our go-to-guy right now.”
Despite being the subject of such high regard from his coaches, McKenzie remains humble and inspired by his team.
“I guess I can be an inspiration. I’m not really trying to be, though,” McKenzie said. “It’s a very supportive team and we try to help each other out whenever possible.”
With only three weeks left to train, Williams and Barber are focused on preparing McKenzie to place in the top three at conference, which will take him to compete in state finals.
Williams’ goal for McKenzie is to jump at least 23 feet in the long jump and 47 feet in the triple jump by the time finals come around.
As for Barber, all McKenzie has to do is keep pushing and challenging himself to become the best athlete that he can be.
“I want to see him be more aggressive,” Barber said. “He’s talented naturally, but I would like to see him get stronger as far as in the weight room and trust himself and have that confidence. I want to see that lion come out.”
McKenzie’s goals for himself are to at least be under 50 seconds for the 400 sprint, long jump at 23 feet, and get to 50 feet in the triple jump.
The track star is most thankful for his mom, Coach Williams, and his coach from high school for always offering him support and encouragement as an athlete.