Hurdling forward

Senior+Sarah+Stebbins+competes+in+the+300m+hurdles+at+the+varsity+Columbus+meet+on+Tuesday%2C+April+20th.

Photo by: Kate Poling-Cummings

Senior Sarah Stebbins competes in the 300m hurdles at the varsity Columbus meet on Tuesday, April 20th.

Story by Ian Sullivan

On Feb. 24, Sarah Stebbins, 12, signed to McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas to run track. Stebbins has run track since 7th grade and runs the 100 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles. Like many other aspiring college athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic affected her college recruiting.

“The coaches couldn’t come watch us run this year or last year. So they just had to look at our times, like for me they looked at my times for my sophomore year and try to guess what they would have been [my junior year],” Stebbins said.

Gary Ausemus, Pittsburg High School’s Head Track and Field Coach, reflected back on last year, when the track season was cancelled.

“Covid-19 took away an entire track season, that just happened to be Sarah’s junior season, which is when a lot of colleges really start watching and recruiting,” Ausemus said, “Many track athletes make a big improvement between their sophomore and junior years and that year was taken away.”

JT Alexander, the Head Track and Field Coach at McPherson College, was the person who reached out to Stebbins first.

“It’s never ideal to limit on campus exposure and in person meetings, as that’s a big part of our evaluation process and a big part of the decision making process for a prospective student-athlete, but we all made the best of the situation at hand,” Alexander said.

According to Alexander, Stebbins is exactly the kind of student-athlete that a coach wants.

“Sarah is a dynamic student, athlete and person. She has a great support system, work ethic and willingness to get better at her craft,” Alexander said, “She’s passionate about her pursuits, and those things are what make a great culture and lead to team success.”

Stebbins is excited to see how college athletics differ from high school athletics.

“I look forward to new coaching and new experiences. I love my coaches, but I want to see what other types of coaching are out there and how much better I can get with that higher level coaching,” Stebbins said.

Ausemus believes that Stebbins’s work ethic has helped her get to where she is.

“She has worked hard to achieve everything she has. Most runners are not just natural hurdlers,” Ausemus said, “The hurdles take a lot of technique and speed and she has had to really focus on technique to get better.”

Alexander preferred to let Stebbins decide her own goals at McPherson.

“I hope Sarah accomplishes whatever goals she sets her mind too. I’m not here to decide how her college career goes, I’m here to give her the tools and guidance to allow her to become the student, athlete, and person she wants to be,” Alexander said.

Alexander has faith that Stebbins will be successful at McPherson.

“She has all the potential in the world and the intangibles to make it happen,” Alexander said, “there’s no doubt she’ll be great.”