Balancing grades, world-class training no problem for SCC Early College student

rowanRowan Stuart’s favorite kayak maneuver is called the “Phonix Monkey” and involves spinning the vessel on its bow like a pirouette for a full 360 degrees then flipping the boat end over end.

There’s nothing easy about the trick, but Stuart’s ability to cleanly achieve it at high-level competitions is a big reason she’ll be competing in the Nantahala Freestyle World Championships that start Sept. 2 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

In much the same way, the 17-year-old from Stecoah 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 SCC’s College Transfer program and is scheduled to complete her two-year associate’s degree and high school diploma before she turns 18 through the Jackson County Early College.

“It’s just a lot of time management,” said Stuart, who enrolled in SCC’s Early College as a freshman in 2010. “Some days I’ll go paddling at 7 in the morning before school, or I’ll go at 2 p.m. afterward. I have a little more flexibility than if I were a traditional high school student.”

While she’s had little problem fitting her kayaking time in between her college and high school studies, Stuart’s taking 14 college hours this fall and knows the weeks ahead will test her like never before.

So she’s started talking with instructors and advisors to map out the most efficient way for her to make up for class time she’ll miss while training for and participating in the international competition.

“That says a lot about how she balances her priorities,” said Matt Kirby, who serves as Stuart’s advisor through SCC’s Early College. “She’s got her head on straight, and she has a sound plan for the future.”

Stuart qualified for the world championships by placing among the top three junior women in the spring team trials for the United States’ team.

She’s guaranteed three 45-second rides – two of which count – in the competition’s preliminary round. If she advances to the finals, she’ll get three more rides – and only her best run will count.

“I’m definitely getting excited,” said Stuart, whose sponsors include Pyranha Kayak, Astral Buoyancy, Immersion Research and Watershed Drybags. “There are definitely some nerves, too, when I think about putting my ride together and which tricks I’m best at.”

For general information about SCC’s programs for high school students, contact Cindy Thompson at (828) 339-4610 or