During a softball practice in seventh grade, Stacey Schroeder-Watt noticed a team practicing shot put behind the softball stadium. She thought they weren’t throwing very far or very well, and she strutted over to ask for a try.
“It was a little bit of naivety,” she jokes now.
Growing up, her parents encouraged her to try every sport and pick which ones she liked by trial and error. Schroeder-Watt played softball, soccer and a variety of others. As she walked over to this Division-II college shot put group, she thought back to what her parents taught her: “Just try everything.”
The coach hesitantly gave Schroeder-Watt a chance, and she impressed with her heave. “They all were a little bit taken aback by a little middle-schooler that came out and really just wanted to see what she could do,” she said.
After that day, the coach invited Schroeder-Watt to throw after every practice. “It started a great career on the shot and discus field,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Schroeder-Watt not only excelled in track and field at Grand Island High School, but she racked up accolades in basketball and volleyball as well. She was a basketball second-team all-leaguer in 1991 and a volleyball first-team all-leaguer in 1992. In field events, Schroder-Watt accomplished the most, winning five Section VI shot put championships and four Section VI discus titles.
She won the state shot put title in 1991 and both the state shot put and discus titles a year later. Her 172-foot mark in the 1992 discus final still stands as the New York state record more than 25 years later. Schroeder-Watt was the top-ranked high school discus thrower in the country, and she went on to be a two-time All-American in discus at Florida. For her achievements, Schroeder-Watt will be inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 1.
“It means a lot,” she said. “To be selected, not only is it for my graduation from high school and college, but to be recognized for my past in athletic achievements is really a great honor and I take it very seriously.”
On top of her All-American honors with the Gators, Schroeder-Watt performed well in the U.S. Olympic festival and Pan-American Games. She always enjoyed how discus and shot put were individual disciplines that garnered awards for herself, but also that they were events factoring in team success.
“The wonderful thing about shot and discus is it’s you against the ring, you against the shot put, you against a distance and a tape measure,” Schroeder-Watt said. “ … It’s a solitary event but it’s embedded in the team.”
After her athletic career subsided, Schroeder-Watt knew she wanted a profession where she was an individual relied upon as part of a team, mirroring an athletic field. She attended SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and now serves as a pediatric anesthesiologist at Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo.
On both the athletic field and in an operating room, Schroeder-Watt sees people from different specialties, with different backgrounds and with different skillsets uniting for a common goal. In one case, it’s winning a game. In the other, it’s potentially saving someone’s life.
“Believe it or not, I think the operating room is the closest parallel to an athletic field you can find,” Schroeder-Watt said. “And then, at the end of the operation, you break. You go back to your life. You go back to everything else. I wanted that same feel that I had on the athletic field.”
Story topics: Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame