Campus Life

Steacy creates balance on and off track

When Heather Steacy takes the stage, it's all about technique — whether she's in a throwing circle or a recital hall.

The two-time CIS women's weight throw champion is as comfortable heaving weights around a track as she is playing clarinet to a convocation crowd. And while that might seem like a startling contrast, Steacy says the two disciplines actually feed off one another.

"I think there are a lot more similarities with hammer (and weight) throw and music than there are with other sports," the 20-year-old, third-year music major says. "In hammer, you have to have pretty much perfect

Heather Steacy won gold at the NACAC U23 Track Championship in Florida recently.
technique to be able to stay in control the whole time and be able to release in the sector, so I think it's quite similar to music."

Exercising proper breathing and executing technique at the time of performance are shared traits of musicians and athletes. Steacy says her early introduction to musical performance has aided her athletically in big competitions.

"I started playing piano when I was five and have been doing Kiwanis Music Festivals ever since, so I've never really had an opportunity to develop big issues with nervousness like some people have," she says.

"I don't really get nervous. I get jitters every once in a while but I've learned how to control it over the years and it doesn't affect me very much."

That was on display in her first appearance at CIS nationals in the spring of 2007. Just 18 years old at the time, Steacy shocked everyone by winning gold in the weight throw (indoor). A year later, she'd defend her title, throwing a still personal best distance of 17.93 metres and dominating the competition by more than a half metre.

This past week, Steacy competed at the NACAC (North American, Central American, and Caribbean Athletic Association) Under 23 Championships in Miramar, Fla. Now 21, Steacy is still showing she's the best in her class by dominating the hammer throw (outdoor) event with a meet-record throw of 67.20 metres. The mark was also a personal best for Steacy and beat the silver-medal winning American thrower by just over three metres.

"My first year in CIS was pretty surprising because I didn't expect to win at all," Steacy says. "In 2008, it was nice to be able to do it a second time. I had been training really hard and throwing well and I always find I compete well at the big meets."

Steacy is on a career path that continues to take her to bigger and bigger meets. It's a journey already traveled by another Steacy, older brother Jim. The Canadian Olympian and multiple Canadian champion and record holder casts a long shadow, but Heather has learned to reap as much as she can from Jim's experience.

"I don't think it's as bad for me as it is for Sean because I don't have to compete with him," she says of her other brother, another former Pronghorn thrower. "I love being able to train with Jim and see how well he's doing. Knowing that I have pretty much the same opportunity of doing everything he's doing is very encouraging."

Training five days a week, including twice daily Wednesday through Friday, you might think Steacy has little time for anything else. Add in the fact her entire family is into track and it sounds like throwing dominates her life. That's where music steps in to provide another outlet.

"It's kind of nice coming to school where there are people who have no idea what I do," she says. "It's neat being able to explain things (about hammer) but it's also nice not being asked all the time. It's nice to have that contrast in my life."

That disparity also seems to create a student-athlete balance that leads to excellence in both arenas.


• Hammer throw is an outdoor sport where the women heave a 4kg ball (8.8 lbs) attached to a metal wire 119.5 cm in length (three feet, 11 inches). Weight throw is an indoor sport where the women toss a 20lb weight attached only to a handle.

• Heather Steacy is the third Steacy to win gold at NACAC, following Jim, who won gold in 2003 in Sherbrooke, Que. and Sean, who won the event two years ago (2008) in Mexico.

• Steacy started playing clarinet in Grade 5, taking lessons from U of L music professor Peggy Mezei.

For more on the Pronghorns' throwing program, visit this link.