Valley News – ‘Energy and hard work’: Coach praises Barnard’s Stevens for heptathlon progress


Faye Stevens is a poster child for avoiding specialization in high school sports.

The Barnard resident and former Woodstock High student played soccer and ice hockey and ran track for the Wasps. She recently completed a spring as a heptathlete at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, relying on the rounded athletic skills she built through those three sports.

The freshman broke her own school heptathlon points record at the All-Atlantic Region Conference track championships. That event consists of the 100-meter hurdles, the 200- and 800-meter runs, the high jump, the long jump, the shot put and the javelin.

Stevens placed fourth in the long jump (5.06 meters) and fourth in the javelin (27.20). She closed the day by taking seventh in the 800 (2:35.19) and finished with 3,893 points.

“One’s ability to move their body weight can often get overlooked, but Faye reps out push-ups and chin-ups with ease while also launching herself over seven feet in a broad jump,” said Vassar strength and conditioning coach Alice Read in a press release. “This combination of energy and hard work sets her apart.”

Stevens said hockey was her first inclination when thinking about college sports. She discovered more interest from track coaches, however, despite Woodstock not having a track. Vermont state rules allow competitors to enter only four events during a meet and the 100- and 300-meter hurdles were Stevens’ primary activities.

“Practicing them on grass was pretty crazy,” she said. “I didn’t even know if they were the right distance apart.”

It was unclear what the sports situation would be like in Vermont and at Woodstock once COVID-19 hit, so Stevens opted for a prep school year at Northfield Mount Hermon in Gill, Mass. NMH touts that, with teams in 20 sports, it has “one of the broadest athletic programs among secondary schools in the US”

Stevens performed well enough in track and the classroom that she was recruited by Vassar, the second degree-granting college for women in the US

The institution became co-educational in 1969, has an enrollment of roughly 2,500 and claims among its notable graduates Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis and actresses Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Lisa Kudrow.

Because of the pandemic, Stevens couldn’t visit any colleges in person. Vassar’s coaches were enthusiastic in recruiting her via Zoom, however, and she applied and was admitted through the early-decision process.

“When you really feel wanted, you’re going to want to be there,” she said.

Vassar will debut indoor track next winter. That means Stevens is likely to compete in the pentathlon, which includes the 60-meter hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, the long jump and the 800-meter run. She feels comfortable with the high jump but not yet with the shot put, saying with a laugh that her goal has been not to finish last.

“I felt a little unprepared going into this spring season but it’s all right,” Stevens said. “We just threw ourselves out there and saw what came of it.”

This summer, Stevens is practicing the javelin in her backyard, hurling a spear over her family’s apple trees. She’s also earning her wilderness first responder certification and has thoughts on tackling requirements to become an emergency medical technician.

Academically, Stevens is leaning towards a double major in biology and a wide-ranging field called Science, Technology and Society.

“I don’t want to wind up in a career I don’t enjoy,” she said.

Athletically, Stevens is already in a good place.

“There’s nothing I can complain about in the slightest,” she said. “I’m pleasantly surprised how the first year went and I surprised myself. I’ve learned not to doubt myself and I’m excited to see what happens next.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.

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