Polar Bear of the Week: Ian Stebbins ’25
January 27, 2023
Last week, Ian Stebbins ’25 shattered Bowdoin’s heptathlon record—set in 2016—by nearly 300 points at the Bates Invitational. The heptathlon is a multi-event contest consisting of seven track and field events: the 60 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 meter hurdles, pole vault and 1000 meter run.
Stebbins achieved personal records (PRs) in six of the seven events, placing first in the 60 meter hurdles and pole vault. He was the runner up in the long jump, shot put and high jump sections. Stebbins is coming off of a string of injuries that left him eager to compete at his highest level and help his team succeed this season.
While Stebbins is dominating in his second year of track and field at the collegiate level, running is a relatively new endeavor for him. He joined his high school’s track and field team during his sophomore year after a long baseball career.
Stebbins hails from Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, a small school with graduating classes of around 60 students. As a result, his high school track and field team was significantly smaller than Bowdoin’s team and had fewer resources.
“I was lucky to just have pole vaulting equipment at my school. It was actually another high school’s old mats that we managed to get,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins walked on to Bowdoin’s track and field team after he spoke to then-Head Coach Peter Slovenski, who recommended that he join the team. In Stebbins’ first year, L.J. Que became the new head coach, leaving Stebbins unsure about his future in the sport.
“I hadn’t talked to [the new coach] yet. I had a decision: Do I want to do track? Do I want to spend my time doing a varsity sport? I’m so glad that I emailed her … and ended up walking on the track team,” Stebbins said.
In high school, Stebbins competed in an assortment of track and field events, focusing on the long jump. At Bowdoin, Que suggested that Stebbins compete in multi-events, which were not offered at his high school.
“I jumped at the idea because I was really excited,” Stebbins said. “Doing a lot of different events is really fun. I couldn’t imagine doing one thing all the time.”
During his first year at Bowdoin, Stebbins struggled with injuries. While attending the Division III New England Track and Field Championships held in May, he withdrew after three events.
“I had been dealing with some knee issues,” Stebbins said. “It gradually worsened [and] got to a point where I was destroying my body. I wasn’t going to perform well.”
Stebbins had patellar tendinitis in his left knee, also known as jumper’s knees. He had partial tears in his tendons which hindered his recovery.
“It’s an annoying injury. It’s not like a broken bone. Typically, the tendon will only get blood flow if you work the area. So, to heal it you have to be active, but not too active [because] then you’ll make it worse,” Stebbins said.
Over the summer, Stebbins sought a multitude of treatments for his knee and began to slowly recover. Coming into the fall of his second year, Stebbins’ regular heptathlon training partner, Dov Asher McGuire-Berk ’24, was studying abroad in Spain, leaving him to train alone.
“Trying to train by yourself can be pretty tough,” Stebbins said. “Track is an interesting sport because you compete by yourself, so it feels very individualistic, but you spend a lot of hours practicing with your teammates. I was definitely missing that.”
Thankfully, another heptathlon teammate, Taira Blakely ’25, joined Stebbins, providing company and helping him focus on his training. Ultimately, Stebbins credits his recent success not only to the recovery of his knees but also the support from his teammates.
“I think having my knee in good shape is literally one of the biggest reasons that I got a PR and was even able to compete,” Stebbins said. “Without my heptathlon teammates, Dov and Taira, as training partners. I don’t think I would have any success.”
His teammates’ support has always been one of Stebbins’ favorite aspects of track and field. Before each race, the team does a big group cheer.
“Almost every time, the cheer is one of the most exciting parts of the meet. It really gets you ready to go because your entire team comes together,” Stebbins said. “I feel like when you’re all together with your whole team, even just for that small moment, it’s preparing you to go off by yourself and do what you need to do.”
Stebbins and the rest of the track and field team will compete in the New England Small College Invite at the New Balance Center in Boston on Sunday.
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