Jaide Stepter

Setting records and winning medals became common for Jaide Stepter, who was recently named Arizona’s top track athlete for 2012.

Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

After a record-breaking track and field season, Jaide Stepter became the first-ever track athlete from Canyon Del Oro High School to be named Gatorade’s Arizona Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. 

Each year, Gatorade, in collaboration with ESPNHS, honors the nation’s best athletes based on athletic excellence, high standards of academics, and demonstration of exemplary character.

“It was a big honor to receive recognition from a national organization,” said Stepter. “The fact that another athlete from CDO, Kayla Bonstrom, was selected as well is an awesome way to represent CDO.”

Bonstrom received the same award in softball after the Dorados won the Division II state softball title, defeating Peoria Sunrise Mountain. 

The state award places Stepter as a finalist in Gatorade’s National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Stepter will find out soon if she wins the national award, and given her accomplishments on and off the track, it would be no surprise to see that happen.

Stepter managed to break the state record in the 300-meter hurdles twice this track season, first at the Chandler Invitational in March when she ran 42.18 to beat the former record of 42.67. 

It didn’t take Stepter long to beat her own record at the Division II state track meet.

With a time of 42.01, Stepter not only broke her previous hurdling record, but also claimed two additional individual state titles in the 100-meter hurdles (14.43 seconds), and the long jump (19 feet, three inches). 

“It was really cool to be able to go out like that,” said Stepter. “I was so excited, and it was great to see everyone in the stands clapping for me. It’s nice knowing I have fans throughout Arizona.”

Stepter was one event away from winning all four of her events at the state meet, placing second only in the 200-meter dash to Salpointe Catholic’s Michaela Crunkleton-Wilson, who finished the race with a time of 24.50. Stepter’s three individual wins helped CDO place second overall in Division II competition.

Latanya Sheffield, Stepter’s mother and sprint coach, said the award tops off a fantastic season.

“It’s a culmination of all the years of her hard work,” she said. “It’s very humbling and an honor to see her recognized.”

In the classroom, Stepter maintained a 4.4 grade point average. Stepter said academics have always been a priority for her.

“My parents have always emphasized that academics come first,” she said. “Coming into high school, there was always a mindset the entire way to strive for an A, to be the best I can, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I’m just as proud of my academic accomplishments as my athletic accomplishments.”

Stepter also donated her time as a youth athletic instructor and at community track events with the goal of fighting childhood obesity.

Stepter will take her academic and athletic abilities to the University of Southern California next year on a track scholarship, and plans to study film.

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