2013-08-08 / News

Drug-free teens named to All-State teams

By Margo Sullivan

Ben Stewart and Garrett Bucklin were both named First Team All- State and also belong to North Kingstown High’s drug-awareness program. The 17-year-olds have been close friends for years. 
Photo by andrea von hohenleiten Ben Stewart and Garrett Bucklin were both named First Team All- State and also belong to North Kingstown High’s drug-awareness program. The 17-year-olds have been close friends for years. Photo by andrea von hohenleiten Two Jamestown student athletes, Ben Stewart and Garrett Bucklin, both 17, have been named First Team All-State in their respective sports.

Ben is a track star and Garrett plays volleyball.

This is the second time Ben has received the honor, and the first time Garrett has been recognized.

The boys’ volleyball team this past season ranked third in the Division I South standings. The Skippers made the playoffs and finished in fifth place. Garrett found out about his selection to the All-State team when his coach texted him with the news, he said.

The North Kingstown outdoor track team was also successful in 2013. The boys tied for second place at the states in the spring. The team won the title in 2012 and hoped to repeat, but even though it was denied another championship, the team did improve on their overall point totals. Ben won three events: the 4x400-meter relay, the 4x800-meter relay and the 300-meter hurdles.

Ben said he will compete in indoor and outdoor track again this year. The indoor team has been at a disadvantage competitively because the athletes have had to use the outdoor track all year round. There’s been talk of covering the first 100 meters or so with a greenhouse type roof. However, Ben thinks shoveling the snow off the track had been kind of fun.

On the downside, the school is considering closing down the weight room to save money. That would be a problem, he said, because athletes from many sports rely on weight training to be at peak performance.

Over the summer, they’ve pretty much stayed in training, both athletes said.

Garrett has been playing in volleyball leagues at Newport’s First Beach and at Narragansett Beach. He’s also been competing in invitational tournaments around New England.

The Newport Volleyball Club puts on a tournament every couple of weeks, Garrett said, and last weekend he accepted an invitation to play at a tournament in Con- necticut.

Ben, who competed in the decathlon at the Junior Olympics, set a state record at his first decathlon on July 23. Ben, being modest, said the record’s “not really set in stone.” Ultimately, he lost his bid to go into the world competition due to a foul in the discus-throwing event.

“I stepped over the line and threw it out of bounds,” he said. Ben will have another chance next year to move into the worlds.

The decathlon consists of 10 events: 100-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter run.

Ben did take a vacation trip to Italy, but is back in training. He puts in at least two hours a day, he said. He runs and lifts weights.

Ben and Garrett have been friends since childhood. They don’t share an interest in the same sports, so they don’t have any rivalry going on. Ben runs and also enjoys sailing. Garrett plays a little basketball when he’s not on the volleyball court. Garrett used to be irked because Ben always beat him at races, but they finally figured out Ben is just really quick.

“He’s a faster runner than me,” Garrett admitted.

They do both participate on one team. They’re both in the Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse program at North Kingstown High.

About 30 high-school students belong to the program, Garrett said. Their main project is going to the middle schools in North Kingstown and Jamestown to talk to eighth-graders about making good choices and using their time productively.

Ben talked to the middle-school students about joining clubs and going out for high-school sports, instead of “hanging around downtown.”

Garrett talked about playing basketball to stay out of trouble.

“I specifically use examples to show what to do instead of abusing,” Garrett said.

The middle-school audience can be tough sometimes, they said.

“They’ve had a lot of people talking to them about high school,” Ben said. “Some are into it, and some are not. Some kind of take it as a joke.”

But the high-school students have worked on their publicspeaking skills, and they even know how to handle a heckler.

A kid was being rude, Garrett said, when the VAASA students were talking about stress reduction. The eighth-grader interrupted the talk.

“The kid said something like, ‘Oh, I put hamsters in the microwave,’” Garrett said. But Garrett responded with what he considers an effective response. Garrett told him, “Kids in high school don’t hang around with kids that are immature.”

Although there’s been speculation about substance abuse in Jamestown, both Ben and Garrett said they don’t know if other Jamestown teens are involved in drugs and alcohol. That’s because kids who use already know Ben and Garrett’s views on the subject.

“I stay out of it completely,” Garrett said. “Everyone in Jamestown knows my views on this stuff. Nobody would come up and say, ‘Let’s go smoke.’”

“I just never thought that was something I’d want to be doing,” Ben said. “There are so many more benefits to sports.”

They also feel they’re doing worthwhile work by helping the younger students.

“We don’t just talk about drugs,” Garrett said. The idea of VAASA is to let the eight-graders know they already have a friend at the high school they can talk to about anything.

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