More than 3,000 track and field athletes from 105 schools gathered to compete in Arizona’s largest annual track meet at the 72nd Chandler Invitational on March 23-24.
When the smoke cleared, it was Canyon del Oro’s hurdle sensation, Jaide Stepter, who stood out as the female Track Athlete of the Meet.
The award came on Saturday after Jaide ran her way into the record books in the 300-meter low hurdles with a time of 42.18, beating the former state record of 42.67.
Jaide’s confidence was sky-high after winning her qualifying race in convincing fashion, finishing ahead of her closest competitor by almost two seconds.
“It wasn’t that I finished in front of everyone, it was the time I finished in,” said Jaide. “I knew I was capable of getting the record.”
With a time of 42.95 in the qualifier, Jaide needed to shave about three-tenths of a second in the finals to break the record, which she felt could be accomplished with some minor timing and form corrections.
“The way she looked, and how she obliterated the field in her heat in the qualifier- we didn’t think anyone would be near her,” said CDO Head Coach, Rick Glider. “We thought it would be her versus the clock.”
Glider’s theory would prove true, but in the end, the clock was on Jaide’s side.
Before the final race got underway, Jaide approached her sprint coach, Latanya Sheffield (also her mother), and told her she wanted to adjust her blocks from 23 steps to 22 steps, eliminating a full stride and hopefully fixing the missteps in her qualifying race.
“She had the attitude of, “If I keep my steps at 23, I am going for the win. If I change my blocks to 22, I am going for the record,’” said Sheffield.
Jaide took her starting blocks, nervous and confident, but above all, anxious. The anticipation was in the air. Her father, Keith, filmed from the stands, while her mother watched from the field. Even the announcer added to the hype as he announced Jaide’s previous accomplishments and declared, “The record might fall.”
“I didn’t just want to beat it,” said Jaide. I wanted to see how much I could beat it by.”
When the gun sounded, Jaide was the first out of her starting blocks, sailing over her hurdles with form and speed, and with each well-timed step, pulling further away from her opponents as she closed in on the finish line. As she crossed the tape about two and a half seconds in front of second-place, she felt like she might have done it.
The official results took about a minute to post, but when they did, Jaide could finally celebrate. Her time of 42.18 had broken the previous state record by nearly a half-second.
“I was so excited,” said Jaide. “I’d been trying to break the record for a while, and I finally did it.”
The record time ranks her as the current number one high school student in the country in the 300-meter low hurdles. Jaide also managed to place fourth in the 100-meter low hurdles.
Sheffield said the record-breaking run was the result of a lot of hard work and dedication.
“Finally,” she said. “As a coach, I knew it was absolutely possible. I was the MapQuest, and she was the driver, and when she made the decision to go for it, I knew it was possible.”
Jaide’s very proud parents joined her at the awards stand, a place Jaide hopes to revisit during the remainder of her senior season.
“I want to try and break the record again,” she said. “My ambitions won’t stop halfway through the season.”
Next year, Jaide will take her talents to the University of Southern California on a full-ride track scholarship. Amidst offers from Harvard University and Columbia University, Jaide chose USC because it adheres to her aspirations in film.
Jaide will take to USC an excellent academic record, and a track resume that boasts the following all-time accomplishments in CDO history: number two in the 200-meter dash, number three in the 100-meter dash, number two in the 400-meter dash, number two in the 100-meter hurdles, number one in the 300-meter hurdles, and further accomplishments as part of relay teams.
“She is without doubt one of the greatest, if not the best, all-around sprinters the school has ever seen,” said Glider.
“It’s a good time to be Jaide,” said Sheffield. “She is in her season. She is in her own.”