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The champion in their hearts

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Photo courtesy of Sonsharon Martin.

Athletes may be described by their physical ability and accomplishments, but people often do not truly know the individual for who they really are.

To family and friends, the athlete is so much more than just stats and records.

Antonisha Stewart, junior hurdler, has been described as a unique individual.

A hard worker, leader and kind-hearted person are words that only begin to describe Stewart.

Kendrell Moore, Stewart’s older brother, says she is a fighter.

“Growing up, she has always been sweet, really caring and friendly,” Moore said. “She was one of those people who kind of wore her heart on her sleeves.”

The hurdler is from Carrollton, Texas, and had a normal childhood with rules and restrictions just like any other adolescent growing up.

Sonsharon Martin, Stewart’s mother, says her daughter was not very social growing up. The junior was not a very outgoing person in her youth.

Photo courtesy of Antonisha Stewart
Photo courtesy of Antonisha Stewart

Martin says she helped Stewart come out of her shell, and encouraged her to make friends.

In high school, Stewart lost her grandfather due to complications.

“It was extremely hard. He was kind of the only father figure that she had growing up. She took it really hard because he was close to all of his grandkids,” Martin said. “Until this day, it is still hard. It has been six years, it was just really tough on all of us.”

Stewart says she had never lost someone very close, and she tried to stay strong for the family.

After her loss, Stewart’s love for track and field began.

She began running in junior high as a sprinter. However, the summer before the athlete’s junior year in high school Stewart found her real passion for the sport when began competing in hurdles.

Stewart never saw herself as a hurdler, but others did. Moore says he had something to do with it.

“She won’t admit this, but I am the one who told her to start running hurdles,” Moore said. “I was one of the people who suggested it and she was not going for it at all. Then the next year, she started running hurdles.”

As her track career progresses, the hard work and energy spent at practice increases.

Stewart says she does well in practice, but sometimes cannot perform the same in a race.

“My biggest challenge is being consistent. It is very hard for me,” Stewart said. “I do know what to do in practice. I’ll have a good race, and then next week I probably won’t do very well.”

Stewart says negative thoughts used to be rampant, but she tries not to think so negatively of her performance.

“We try to get her to stay positive, and tell her that track is something that you have to grow into,” Martin said. “She really is hard on herself whenever she doesn’t do too well. We have to encourage her to keep going. Keep praying and ask God for strength and fast feet.”

As the final moments of her college career approach, Stewart hopes to do well in life as well. She hopes to become a physical therapist or pursue another occupation in the health field.

“I just really want to be successful in everything and what I choose to do after college,” Stewart said. “I look around and I don’t see people working hard so they can have a good life.”

Photo courtesy of Antonisha Stewart
Photo courtesy of Antonisha Stewart

She will always have support from her family, including her brother.

“That’s my role dog,” Moore said. “I would say I am closer to her than probably anybody else in the family. We support each other. She is a part of my support system and I am a part of hers.”

The love and affection for Stewart comes from her mother, too, who says Stewart stands out in every way.

“She is the sweetest, hardest working and determined person that I know,” Moore said. “Those are the things that really stand out. How sweet and kind she is to other people whether she knows them or not. How determined she is to accomplish her goals and how hard she works towards them.”

Now as a junior, Stewart has a few goals to accomplish before graduation.

Stewart says her hopes are to gain more experience in the health field, and even go after nationals and win.

“I am proud not just of the results, but of the process,” Moore said. “I am proud of the effort she gives, and how determined she is. I always told Antonisha and I wanted to stress to her how proud I was at the process that she was going through and the effort she was giving.”

With everything Stewart does, family is always by her side.

“We are very proud of her, she has grown up to be a good and beautiful person. She is growing up to be a beautiful woman,” Martin said. “I just want to see her succeed in every aspect of life, regardless if she continues running track as an adult. I want her to succeed, and I want her to prosper.”

Stats and records may not mean as much to family. But seeing one of their own excelling in everything she does is record-breaking.