In much the same way, the 17-year-old has managed to successfully balance her academic pursuits at Southwestern Community College with world-class kayak training. She currently holds a 3.2 GPA in SCCâ€™s College Transfer program and is scheduled to complete her two-year associateâ€™s degree and high school diploma before she turns 18 through the Jackson County Early College.
â€śItâ€™s just a lot of time management,â€ť said Stuart, who enrolled in SCCâ€™s Early College as a freshman in 2010. â€śSome days, Iâ€™ll go paddling at seven in the morning before school, or Iâ€™ll go at 2 p.m. afterward. I have a little more flexibility than if I were a traditional high school student.â€ť
While sheâ€™s had little problem fitting her kayaking time in between her college and high school studies, Stuart is taking 14 college hours this fall and knows the weeks ahead will test her like never before.
So she has started talking with instructors and advisors to map out the most efficient way for her to make up for class time sheâ€™ll miss while training for and participating in the international competition. The biennial event takes place at different locations across the globe and is much like the Olympics of trick-boating, meaning the training necessary to compete is no walk in the park.
â€śThat says a lot about how she balances her priorities,â€ť said Matt Kirby, who serves as Stuartâ€™s advisor through SCCâ€™s Early College. â€śSheâ€™s got her head on straight, and she has a sound plan for the future.â€ť
Stuart qualified for the world championships by placing among the top three junior women in the spring team trials for the United Statesâ€™ team. At the standing wave in front of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Stuart will try out her routine of tricks, flips and twirls against other world-class athletes.
Sheâ€™s guaranteed three 45-second rides â€“ two of which count â€“ in the competitionâ€™s preliminary round. If she advances to the finals, sheâ€™ll get three more rides â€“ and only her best run will count. Points and bonuses are given for the most complex and perfectly executed paddling aerobatics.
â€śIâ€™m definitely getting excited,â€ť said Stuart, whose sponsors include Pyranha Kayak, Astral Buoyancy, Immersion Research and Watershed Drybags. â€śThere are definitely some nerves, too, when I think about putting my ride together and which tricks Iâ€™m best at.â€ť