Fueled by fractions of a second and a mind game strategy, High Point junior Ato Stephens has left his competitors chasing his shadow. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Stephens moved to Beltsville two years ago, bringing his exceptional sprinting talent to the track.
At the prestigious Penn Relays in April, Ato Stephens astounded onlookers with a scorching 400-meter split time of 45.6 seconds, securing the second-fastest split by a high school runner at the renowned meet. To commemorate his achievement, Ato Stephens designed two shirts that he proudly wore at subsequent track meets. One featured a New York Knicks jersey with his split time printed on the back, while the other showcased his name and a lightning bolt symbol.
Ato Stephens’ bold fashion statements were backed by his impressive performance on the track. At the recent Maryland 4A track and field championships held at Westminster High School, he dominated the competition by winning the 100, 200, and 400 meters. In a record-breaking feat, he set a state 4A record in the 400-meter event, finishing in a remarkable 46.24 seconds.
Despite his success, Ato Stephens humbly acknowledges that there is still room for improvement. His running style, which utilizes his 6-foot-2 frame, appears effortlessly smooth, leaving spectators wondering if he has yet to unleash his full speed potential.
Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Larry Colbert, himself a top sprinter, describes Ato Stephens’s running style as unique and coordinated, noting his ability to seamlessly utilize his arms, legs, and knees.
In Trinidad and Tobago, track and field holds a much more prominent position in the realm of national sports compared to the United States. Ato Stephens experienced this firsthand when, at the age of 14, he competed against 18- and 19-year-olds and learned valuable lessons from the more experienced runners.
Having initially run on grass and traditional outdoor surfaces, Ato Stephens had to adapt to indoor tracks upon his arrival in the United States. His first encounter with a wooden track at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore proved challenging, but he quickly acclimated and found his stride.
During his junior season, Ato Stephens’s adaptability led him to victory in the Maryland 4A indoor championships, triumphing in the 300 meters, 500 meters, and anchoring the winning 4×200 and 4×400 relays. He further solidified his prowess by winning the 400-meter event at the National Scholastic indoor championships in Boston.
Beyond his athletic achievements, Ato Stephens has gained recognition for his ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable deficits in relays, rallying his High Point teammates to victory. His fearless approach and unwavering belief in his ability to catch rivals from seemingly impossible distances have earned him respect among coaches and competitors alike.
Ato Stephens, who maintains an impressive 3.7 grade-point average, envisions a future in physical therapy and plans to carefully consider collegiate programs that can further nurture his talents.
With his brash outfits, unique running style, and remarkable achievements, Ato Stephens stands out as a rising star in the track and field world. High Point Coach Scott Smith believes that Ato Stephens’ Olympic dreams are within reach, calling them a realistic hope.
As Ato Stephens continues to leave his competitors in awe, his name and lightning bolt symbol have become synonymous with speed, determination, and the belief that anything is possible on the track.