BATAVIA – Taylor Stieve picked up track and field in eighth grade, long after she’d grown accustomed to constantly picking up her bags and moving.
A Navy brat who had moved 10 times before her family relocated to Batavia a few years ago, Stieve embraced the sport because she excelled at it. She since has internalized track for providing a coveted constant.
“People, usually they go to kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school together, so they have their cliques and their friend groups,” said Stieve, a senior in her second year as a Bulldog. “So being in a sport was kind of my way of getting into the school and finding friends and finding people with like minds like me and athletic-driven people. And it’s definitely worked down here.”
Stieve boosted her popularity at Saturday’s Metea Valley Invitational, anchoring the winning 4x100-meter relay (50.13) while placing second in the 300 hurdles (48.0) and fourth in the 100 hurdles (17.0). She also competed in the 4x200 and 4x400.
After narrowly missing the Class 3A state meet cut in the 300 hurdles as a junior, she has worked to be dialed in from the onset of outdoor season.
For some athletes, that means a state bordering on stoicism, an aura of put-on-my-headphones-and-let-me-prepare.
For the sociable Stieve, it’s anything but.
“Me being the freshman, again, and her being a senior, she definitely took me under her wing and showed me around,” budding Bulldogs sprinter Hanna Schlaman said.
Stieve began high school in Ohio before her family moved to Naperville midway through her freshman year. Her father, Bill, a retired U.S. Navy senior chief, has a travel-intensive civilian job.
Spending the next year and a half at St. Francis, Stieve joined the track program and cultivated a passion for volunteering that still finds her spending time with such organizations as Lazarus House, the Northern Illinois Food Bank and Feed My Starving Children.
“Wherever I can find work,” Stieve said.
Although she enjoyed academic success at St. Francis, Stieve said she “just knew that a small private school was not the place for me.” The family already was living in Batavia by the time she transferred to BHS for the 2012-2013 school year.
Since then, neither Stieve’s studies nor her splits have dropped off. A prospective business student, she earned a full academic scholarship to Southern Illinois-Carbondale.
Competing with the JV at the 2013 Metea Valley Invitational, Stieve registered a 300 hurdles time that would have won the varsity competition.
That quickly answered any outstanding questions regarding her potential.
Naturally, Stieve already had branched out by the time she assumed a full varsity slate. At all levels, track has long been known to lend itself to inclusion.
“We don’t make cuts, which is a great thing about our sport, and you pull from a huge pool of depth in the school,” Bulldogs coach Justin Allison said. “You’re going to get so many different personalities, so many different philosophies and ideas in our young ladies.
“And they just all work well together. There’s no animosity toward each other. ‘Oh, you’re running this,’ ‘I’m not running that,’ anything like that. They’re just all one, big – I call it the unit – because they are. They’re one big unit.”
“Unit” doubles as a military term, which should take Stieve back.
Born in South Carolina, she’s also a veteran of two tours in Italy, along with stops in north suburban Great Lakes; Memphis, Tenn.; West Monroe, La.; Dover, Ohio and Tyler, Texas.
Wherever she goes, tracks measure 400 meters and there are easily approachable teammates mirroring her passion.
“When you think about track, our teammates really are our family,” Stieve said. “We spend so much time together and just the kind of bond we have is so different from any other sports team I’ve been on in any other school, and I love it.”