May 27, 2009

Stewart wins multiple honors at archery contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For Lee A. Stewart, battling back from an equipment malfunction to finish fifth at the United States Intercollegiate Nationals outdoor archery competition was just another lesson in handling adversity.

His fifth-place finish in the male recurve competition landed the sophomore from Dowell a spot on the collegiate all-American squad in that division. And his perfect 4.0 grade point average in political science resulted in his selection as one of 13 members of USA College Archery’s 2009 All-Academic Team for male college recurve.

Stewart, the son of Dennis and Trish Stewart, said he is proud of the way he recovered after the equipment malfunction initially put him in 16th place going into the second day of the tournament at California State University Long Beach. The event was May 14-17.

He finished ninth in the intercollegiate nationals second-day ranking round. On the third day, Stewart lost in the quarterfinal elimination match in a one-arrow shoot-off to 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate and eventual collegiate champion Jacob Wukie of James Madison University.

Stewart said he will earn collegiate all-American status based on his rankings in the indoor and outdoor nationals. The academic all-American selection is more significant, he said.

“Being an academic all-American is a bigger deal to me in that academics are my priority at the University, and everything else comes secondary,” he said. “I look forward to representing the University for the next three years and hope bigger and better things come of that.”

Stewart earned college credits while at Elverado High School, and is already in sophomore standing. The honors student, a 2008 Presidential Scholar, will be a junior during the 2009-2010 academic year.

He is taking his finish in stride. It took several minutes after the arrow rest on the bow snapped off to adjust it, and Stewart said he soon found the rest needed another readjustment. The mishap likely cost him 80 points in the competition, leaving him too far down to make it into the top three in the qualification round.

“It was a great learning experience for me to learn how to handle adversity under pressure,” he said.

Not that Stewart didn’t encounter adversity in the days leading up the event. First was the pressure of final exams. Then, the May 8 storm that devastated Southern Illinois came along, and Stewart, a member of the town’s volunteer fire department, spent several days assisting with cleanup efforts. His family’s home regained power on May 12, the day before he left for the competition. He also encountered a small earthquake while at the airport in California.

Stewart also placed 12th overall in the World University Games Trials, held simultaneously during the first two days of the intercollegiate nationals.

Stewart remains upbeat about the future. He might shoot later this summer in the U.S. Open, and will be in training for next year and the collegiate world championships. He notes that many of this year’s top finishers will graduate this year.

“You deal with the cards you are dealt and you learn from everything you do,” he said.