At a certain point, it would be wise to just leave the Chelsea High record books in girls’ track blank until junior Stephanie Simon graduates.
The champion jumper, runner and hurdler tends to break most school records, and then break her own records time and time again. At a certain point, her coaches say, they will probably fill it all in after she graduates.
Simon, 16, comes from a strong athletic family – and her sister, Martine – is the only runner to have ever beat her in a meet. Now, she has focused in on jumping events and has put together a string of wins during the indoor season this winter.
Recently, she took first place in the Division 2 state long jump, and took second place in the New England Championship meet. Earlier this year, at the multi-state Dartmouth Relays, she took first in the long jump and high jump.
This weekend, she will travel to New York City for the second year in a row to compete in the National Championship indoor meet.
But back in Chelsea, if you see a young lady cutting it up on a skateboard, that might be Stephanie Simon.
“When I’m not training or practicing, I like to ride a penny board,” she said. “I ride it everywhere, even to school. I think that’s why I can jump. I think that’s something every jumper has to have to be successful and that is being able to take a risk. You have to be willing to take a risk to throw yourself in a pit of sand or give it everything you have to flop up and over the high jump bar. It’s the adrenaline I like.”
Simon was born in Chelsea to Hubert and Mathilde Simon, who originally came from Haiti. Her older brother, Norbert, was also a track standout, as was her sister, Martine, who graduated last year. She said her younger brother, Emanuel, has potential in the 200 sprint.
She attended the Early Learning Center, the Berkowitz School, the Clark Avenue Middle School and has settled in at Chelsea High – where she keeps a 3.4 grade point average and is active in academics.
But her cool demeanor likely comes from having to contain herself on the track. Unlike with the sprints – where she also has great success within the conference meets – she said she has learned that a jumper (whether high jump, long jump or triple jump) needs to stay in control.
“Adrenaline is good for running, but for jumping you have to kind of put it in a bottle and use it to motivate you and counter it with technique,” she said. “For jumping and sprints, unlike distance running, it’s half mental and half physical.”
It will be a very important quality when she arrives at the New York City Armory this weekend with her coach, Cesar Hernandez. Last year was her first indoor national meet, and she said it was overwhelming.
“Last year, stepping into that building was so overwhelming,” she said, noting that there hasn’t been another Chelsea runner since Bobby Goss decades ago to go to nationals. “Every runner there was working hard and wanted to win. I didn’t do so well, but it made me even more determined to do better at the national outdoor meet in North Carolina last spring and I did.”
When she went to the Dartmouth Relays earlier this year, she said that same New York feeling came upon her, but she was able to shake it off, which is something she said she will do when she goes back to New York this week.
“I told myself it’s the same events and the same sand,” she said. “I was able to recover and move on.”
Amazingly, Simon was never a runner until she got to high school, unlike many top runners who have been at it since grade school.
“My freshman year I didn’t even run that first season,” she said. “I liked soccer. I was able to make varsity my freshman year. In the winter, I played basketball. Then I did outdoor track and I was really good at it. In track, there was so much support and it was like a big family. My freshman year I was trying to figure everything out. Everyone kept telling me I had more potential in track. I listened to them and I’m glad I stayed.”
Simon credited Coach Hernandez with helping her take bigger and bigger steps as a runner and, especially, as a jumper. As a raw athlete, she had talent, but she said Hernandez helped her to develop technique and pushed her not to just rely on athleticism.
“If he wasn’t my coach, I would not be doing what I’m doing,” she said. “He fits the kind of coach I need.”
She also credited her teammates for being a great support system.
She also credited her family, who she said has been very proud of her academically and in sports.
“In our family, everyone has their thing they are best at,” she said. “I guarantee I win at track.”