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Every time Shatora Lewis steps into a shot put throwing ring at a track meet the Scott senior knows she s not alone.
The defending Division I state champion finds strength from those closest to her. There is none more significant than her mother, Mozella Harris, a cancer survivor.
It s Lewis desire to finish out her high school track and field career by winning at least one more state championship. It would be her way of saying thanks for the support.
Winning another state championship would mean a lot for me and my family and friends and coaches, Lewis said. It would be for everybody that helped me out.
But my mom is the main one.
Winning a state championship as a junior admittedly came as a bit of a surprise. I didn t even know I had won, said Lewis, who produced a state-title throw of 42 feet, 8 inches last year in Columbus. I thought I had finished second until everyone came over and told me I won. Then I got very excited.
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Lewis would like nothing more than to rekindle that excitement. Winning a state title this season is something she has been focused on from the first practice. At 6-foot-1 , she typically towers over most of her competitors. Lewis has not lost a shot put or discus competition this spring and will take her unblemished record into the Division I district meet today and Saturday at St. Francis.
She won last week s City League titles with throws of 42-0 in the shot put and 129-10 in the discus. She is the defending district champion for both events.
I don t think the pressure really comes until state, Lewis said. You re throwing against the same people you ve thrown against during the season at the City and district meets.
Scott coach George Clay said Lewis, who owns personal records of 42-11 for shot put and 131-0 for discus, has been steady most of the season and is progressing ahead of last season.
She s basically on course for developing a good throw at state in the shot put, Clay said. She s throwing two feet better than what she had been doing. We re just starting to fine-tune everything that she s been doing, and being a senior there s not too much she s not been doing.
Lewis ability to focus is arguably what has made her one of the state s best shot put and discus throwers in the D-I ranks.
As a freshman we could tell she was going to be a decent thrower because she listened to the coaches and followed through with what we asked her to do, Clay said.
Her ability to focus was clearly put to the test during her sophomore and junior years when her mother was dealing with the effects of cancer, including chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Lewis, who has signed a national letter-of-intent to attend Michigan State, spent many school days leaving Scott and heading directly to the hospital to be at her mother s bedside. It added up to numerous late nights without much sleep.
It was very hard to deal with that, Lewis said. I had to keep myself moving and keeping busy. I would go to school and try to act like nothing was wrong.
But Lewis mother knew what the youngest of her four children was dealing with to try and support her during some trying times, which included a code-blue experience last summer while in the hospital.
I was in the hospital two or three weeks a month and she would stay with me through the night, Harris said. She would lie out on two chairs because she s so tall to be at my side.
Lewis said she received plenty of help from a number of people when her mother was hospitalized. Her coaches Clay, assistant track coach Bonita Johnson and girls basketball coach Debra Jones were among the support group. They visited Harris while she was in the hospital and looked after Lewis like a daughter.
It was Clay who delivered Lewis a pair of pink track-and-field shoes to wear last year to honor her mother.
We thought it was a really good gesture for her to wear the pink shoes to recognize cancer survivors, Clay said.
It was around the same time Lewis started wearing the pink shoes she started to find some consistency, in particular, in the shot put, her best event. Ultimately, she won a state title in those shoes.
However, it wasn t the shoes, Lewis said. She was motivated to win for her mother.
During my freshman and sophomore years she was always there for me at the meets and always supported me, Shatora said. When she was down and really sick, that really pushed me to do my best. I felt like winning and doing well in my sports would make her happy and proud.
Harris was too sick to attend the state meet last season and could not watch her daughter become a state champion. Lewis father, Ike Lewis, attended and kept Harris aware of what was taking place by cell phone.
Harris said the cancer has been in remission for approximately five months although she is still dealing with some related issues with her heart and lungs. She suffers from fatigue if she s on her feet or moving around for too long.
However, unlike last year she has been able to attend some meets. She watches her daughter while sitting in her car to avoid direct sunlight.
And as much as her daughter was at her side during challenging times, Harris wants nothing more than to be at her daughter s side to offer support over the next few weeks of the season.
It would be her way of saying thanks to her daughter.
I feel really blessed to have a child like that, Harris said. I love the way she listens. I always hear so many compliments about her. I thank God for her. She ll put everything on the line for her mom.
The feeling is mutual.
Contact Donald Emmons at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6302