Phenom-enal win

CENTRAL’S BEST: Grade 12 Lawrence Park student Maddie Stephen earned top honours in the Central Region at the Town Crier’s 26th Annual Athlete of the Year Awards.

Lawrence Park’s basketball star Maddie Stephen takes home Athlete of the Year prize

It’s nice to break the stigma of being an academic school.

So says Town Crier’s Central Region athlete of the year, Maddie Stephen, a six-foot-one “Phenom” from Lawrence Park.

“I think for years Lawrence Park’s been labelled as an academic school and I think now there are coaches and teachers who are getting involved,” Stephen said. “We realize that we’ve actually got really good athletes at our school.

“I guess you could say we’re practising and training harder and there’s more school spirit,” she added. “That’s definitely helping and I hope it continues.”

It also helps when Stephen raises $11,000 for charity Right to Play and another $2,000 for the Terry Fox Run. The 18-year-old also spent time as president of the girls athletics council.

Her Phenom moniker stuck early back in grade 9 with the Panthers senior basketball squad, bestowed upon her by coach Cargel Stewart. It was on that team where she was able to hit the court with older sister Michelle for two seasons.

She’s flattered by the nickname also used to describe NBA great LeBron James.

“I am so humbled by it,” she said. “People kind of joke about it and call me ‘the phenom’ and it’s really nice.”

Still, during her four-year stint, Stephen has had some obstacles to overcome. One is a small bench on her basketball and perennial elimination from OFSAA contention by Eastern Commerce.

“We usually only have about six or seven players on a team,” she said. “But we’ve done well.”

Repetitive play on the court has also led to patellar tendonitis in both knees.

“That’s been really challenging and sometimes frustrating because I want to play so bad,” she said. “There’s not really a quick fix, there’s a lot of extra training and muscle strengthening.”

But some good has come from that. With all her physical training and an inkling for sciences, she’s planning on taking human kinetics when she heads to University of Ottawa in September.

As for her rocks, her family is her biggest influence — including mom Lisa Anderson and dad Chris Stephen — as they’re both sports fans.

But Stephen admits it’s her teammates that infect her with Panther pride.

“We kind of feed off of each other and they are an inspiration,” she said. “It’s really great when you want to win so bad for your teammates.”

She’ll miss those friends once she heads to the Nation’s capital to don Gee-Gees’ garnet and grey.

“I’m playing basketball at university next year so I am really, really looking forward to that,” she said. “I guess I’m going to try and play volleyball.

“It’s going to be hard because I know basketball takes up so much time.”

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