Steacy comfortable on any stage
When Heather Steacy takes the stage, it’s all about technique – whether she’s in a throwing circle or a recital hall.
The two-time CIS women’s weight throw champion is as comfortable heaving weights around a track as she is playing clarinet to a convocation crowd. And while that might seem like a startling contrast, Steacy says the two disciplines actually feed off one another.
“I think there are a lot more similarities with hammer (and weight) throw and music than there are with other sports,” the 20-year-old, third-year music major says. “In hammer, you have to have pretty much perfect technique to be able to stay in control the whole time and be able to release in the sector, so I think it’s quite similar to music.”
Exercising proper breathing and executing technique at the time of performance are shared traits of musicians and athletes. Steacy says her early introduction to musical performance has aided her athletically in big competitions.
“I started playing piano when I was five and have been doing Kiwanis Music Festivals ever since, so I’ve never really had an opportunity to develop big issues with nervousness like some people have,” she says. “I don’t really get nervous. I get jitters every once in a while, but I’ve learned how to control it over the years, and it doesn’t affect me very much.”
That was on display in her first appearance at CIS nationals in the spring of 2007. Just 18 years old at the time, Steacy shocked everyone by winning gold. A year later, she’d defend her title, throwing a still personal best distance of 17.93 metres and dominating the competition by more than a half metre.
“My first year was pretty surprising because I didn’t expect to win at all,” Steacy says. “Last year, it was nice to be able to do it a second time. I had been training really hard and throwing well, and I always find I compete well at the big meets.”
Steacy is on a career path that will lead to bigger and bigger meets down the road. It’s a journey already traveled by another Steacy, older brother Jim. The Canadian Olympian and multiple Canadian champion and record holder casts a long shadow, but Heather has learned to reap as much as she can from Jim’s experience.
“I don’t think it’s as bad for me as it is for Sean because I don’t have to compete with him,” she says of her other brother, another former Pronghorn thrower. “I love being able to train with Jim and see how well he’s doing. Knowing that I have pretty much the same opportunity of doing everything he’s doing is very encouraging.”
Steacy is preparing for her third CIS championship appearance, Mar. 12-14 in Windsor, Ont. She opened the season with a secondplace showing at the Golden Bear Open meet in January and while not taking gold is somewhat of an oddity, Steacy says she welcomes more challengers to a relatively unknown sport.
“There’s getting to be a lot more girls competing now, which is a good sign,” she says. “There will actually be people to compete with now instead of just going and throwing by yourself, competing against yourself all the time.”
Training five days a week, including twice daily Wednesday through Friday, you might think Steacy has little time for anything else. Add in the fact her entire family is into track and it sounds like throwing dominates her life. That’s where music steps in to provide another outlet.
“It’s kind of nice coming to school where there are people who have no idea what I do,” she says. “It’s neat being able to explain things (about hammer), but it’s also nice not being asked all the time. It’s nice to have that contrast in my life.”
That disparity also seems to create a student-athlete balance that leads to excellence in both arenas.
GET THE FACTS
• The hammer throw is an outdoor sport where the women heave a 4kg ball (8.8 lbs) attached to a metal wire 119.5 cm in length (three feet, 11 inches). The weight throw is an indoor sport where the women toss a 20lb weight attached only to a handle
• Steacy won the CIS weight throw gold last year with a throw of 17.93m, nearly two metres better (15.97m) than her win in 2007
• Her summer competition schedule could include trips to Prince Edward Island (Canada Games), Serbia (World University Games) and Lebanon (Francophone Games)
• Steacy started playing clarinet in Grade 5, taking lessons from U of L music professor Peggy Mezei