Indoor track and field season is young, but St. John’s University junior Maya Stephens has already established her intention to become one of the top sprinters in the country. Before holiday break, Stephens was named Big East women’s track athlete of the week after outstanding results at the Bill Ward Invite, where she won both the 200-meter and the 400-meter dashes.

Stephens, who is from Canada, chose St. John’s because she wanted to experience a new place but not be too far from family. She also liked the fact that although St. John’s isn’t a super-high-profile athletic program, it has produced several Olympians.

“I thought New York would be perfect and I love the team,” said Stephens, who has represented Canada in international competition (the Junior Pan American Games) and has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics. “The Olympics are a dream of mine. With the help of coach [Aliann] Pompey [St. John’s sprints coach and a four-time Olympian]. I hope I can get there just like she did. International competition gives me a large sense of pride and passion to be able to represent not only Canada, but St. John’s.”

When Stephens was growing up, her brother, a basketball player, was the athlete in the family who dreamed of getting an athletic scholarship to a U.S. university, but as she got into high school and started taking track seriously, it became a reality for her. Her brother actually decided to stay close to home for university, but she saw her plan through and joined the Red Storm.

“I like that St. John’s is big, but not too big,” said Stephens. “Having several Olympians in Rio brought a great energy to the school. We had an alumni night for track and field. Being able to hear [high jumper] Priscilla Frederick and coach Pompey talk about their athletic experiences was very inspiring to know that you don’t have to go to a big school to do great in your sport.”

Indoor season resumes Jan. 14, with the Great Dane Meet on Staten Island. During the holiday break, Stephens is training intently.

“My number one goal for indoor and outdoor season is to stay healthy,” said Stephens, a communications major. “I want to bring down my 60 and 200 times and be a contributor to our 4×400 relay.”