Last year, as a junior, Canyon Crest’s Kamon Stewart burst onto the local track & field scene when he became the Ravens’ first male athlete to win two individual events at the Avocado West Track & Field Championship, capturing the 100 m. and 300 m. hurdles, both in times that put him in those fields at the 2018 CIF Championships.
This year the CCA senior has already lowered his marks in both races and has personal bests of 10.98 (100), 22.62 (200) and 39.00 (300 hurdles). The first two, run in April 3’s dual meet vs. Torrey Pines and the March 30 Willie Banks Invitational respectively, are school records while the hurdles mark, clocked April 5 at the Arcadia Invitational, is threatening Cody Johnson’s 2012 school best of 38.12.
While times are nice, Stewart has his sights geared on not only repeating his double at the Avocado West meet, but leading his boys’ team to its first-ever league team championship and earning an individual invitation to the CIF State Championship meet by winning his specialty, the 300 m. hurdles, at the CIF San Diego sectional gathering.
From a team perspective, the Raven boys are two dual meet victories away from capturing that initial Avocado West crown. They face fellow contender La Costa Canyon, Thursday, April 18 and Carlsbad a week later. With a victory in hand over defending kingpin Torrey Pines, CCA controls its own destiny and out-pointing LCC would virtually wrap up the title (determined by the best dual meet record; the Ravens could still get a share of the title if they lost to LCC and the Mavericks fell to Torrey Pines).
“I really like our team, we have a lot of depth and winning the league championship for the first time would be a great accomplishment,” said Stewart. “I’m ready to do whatever I’m asked to do for the rest of the team.”
As far as his individual objectives, both Stewart and his Head Coach Andy Corman believe he is in position to do much better than he did a year ago when he followed up his breakout performance at the league meet with a less satisfying result in the CIF Championships.
“There really wasn’t a specific point but things definitely started to click for me last year,” recalled Stewart, who was originally drawn to basketball and didn’t get his start in track & field until his freshman year of high school (ironically while attending Torrey Pines). “I’ve improved and am more physically developed now. The key to being better at CIF is just being ready to show up with my best when the time comes. There’s one kid ranked ahead of me now but I think I have the ability to take him down.”
CCA Head Coach Andy Corman says last year’s CIF outcome was not all that surprising. “Kamon had a great junior season but he didn’t have the consistency that comes over time,” said Corman. “With its high stakes and high pressure, CIF Finals was a bit of a new environment.
“He’s definitely much better this year than he was then. To be honest, his commitment level to doing well has greatly increased, he’s bought into the team, trusts his coaches and works out harder. That shows in his results.”
Although Stewart didn’t make his track & field debut until he was 14, he has more than a trace of pedigree in the sport. His father, Kwane, was a Division I track & field athlete (hurdler) at New Mexico, his grandfather coached track & field and his whole family is full of athletes.
“My dad encouraged me to give it a shot and guided me to the hurdles, initially the high hurdles because I was tall,” says Stewart, a native of Modesto who moved with his family to San Diego just prior to high school. Corman says Kwane Stewart’s background has expedited his son’s progress.
“Kamon is kind of green in that he’s not one of those kids who has been competing in the sport since he was a little kid,” said Corman. “But through the exposure and advice he’s received from his dad, he has more experience than it might seem. He’s a really solid sprinter but the 300 hurdles is where he fits best as far as future success.”
The boys’ 300 m. hurdles at the prep level covers one turn and consists of eight 36-inch barriers. Stewart’s 6-4, 175-lb. frame combined with his sprinter’s speed make him a bit of a one-off among his competitors, the majority of whom may have one but usually not both of those attributes.
Stewart is clearly proficient at his craft but, also unlike most of his opponents, not overly concerned about technique and the finer points of hurdling. While most hurdlers concentrate on getting a specific number of steps between hurdles (15 or 17) in order to lead with the same leg each time, Stewart is more fixed on simply getting over the hurdle so he can gobble up the space between.
“I’m not like everyone else, I don’t count strides, I just run and alternate lead legs,” he admitted. “I’ve never had any trouble with it, maybe because I’m taller than most hurdlers. I’ve never raced anyone as tall as me.
“In the 300, your form doesn’t have to be amazing and I think, for me, it’s important to power through and get over the hurdles quickly so I can use my stride and speed to my advantage.” That’s not to say the event doesn’t pose any challenges, even for someone with Stewart’s past history.
“Aside from everything else, it takes a lot of conditioning and a lot of strength,” said Stewart. “Coming around the curve at the end of the first 200, you know you’re basically done but you’ve just got to want it and be willing to go for it at the end.”
Admittedly “a little goofy” and gregarious in a sport where big moments bring out serious faces and little interaction, Stewart likes to keep loose before his events. But about 15 minutes prior to a start, the headphones go on and he starts to hone in.
“I like to listen to some music to calm me down and when they call us to the starting line, I take the headphones off and it’s ‘go’ time,” says Stewart. “In the blocks beforehand, it’s mostly about the first hurdle.
“Hitting that first hurdle right is key and I always try to get out hard—I want to beat everyone to the first hurdle. I feel like it gives me momentum to carry into the curve and puts everyone else in a spot where they have to worry about catching up.” Corman likes that part of Stewart’s make-up.
“He’s a competitor, plain and simple,” says Corman. “When Kamon gets on the line, he wants to push it, wants to compete which is one of the things that separate him from a lot of the others.”
Off the track, Stewart comes across as a typical 18-year-old who enjoys hanging out with his friends and taking advantage of San Diego’s beaches. Two of his other spare time pursuits are eating and music.
“I eat a lot,” laughs Stewart, whose lean body type doesn’t really make that seem possible. “I don’t know where it goes or how I stay at 175. Right now, my favorite is poke (a staple of native Hawaiian cuisine).”
The musical interest is even less apparent, something the normally outgoing Stewart says he keeps pretty much to himself. “I like to make music, beats on a computer,” he said. “Nobody knows that I’ve got a whole set up in my room—I just go there and crank it up.
“I don’t really show anyone my music or talk about it—it’s just for me.”
Sporting a 3.8 GPA at one of San Diego’s most rigorous academic high schools, Stewart is plotting out his post-graduation future as both an athlete and a student.
“I definitely have a plan—I want to major in biology and go to veterinary school after college, that’s always been my dream,” he said. “My dad is a vet and I just love animals—I’ve been surrounded by animals my whole life and seen it firsthand when he was the head vet at a shelter in Modesto.
“As far as track & field, I’ve been talking to some coaches, getting some information and I’ll definitely be running next year, I’m just not sure where yet.” At the collegiate level the “intermediate” hurdles distance is extended to 400m. with a total of 10 hurdles, features that Corman thinks will be an advantage to his star.
“Kamon’s a 51-to-52-second guy in the 400 right now and the extra distance figures to be a benefit,” theorizes Corman. “As he matures, he’s going to get stronger and he still has room to get more technically sound.
“If he chooses to run at the collegiate level, he has the speed and strength to carry the 400 hurdles—I think he can be even better than he’s been here.”