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A Statement for States: Hartford’s Lowe Making a Case for Sprint Excellence

  • Sophomore Abayomi Lowe practices in the halls of Hartford High School with the indoor track team on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 in White River Junction, Vt., to prepare for state championships. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sophomore Abayomi Lowe practices in the halls of Hartford High School with the indoor track team on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 in White River Junction, Vt., to prepare for state championships. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sophomore Abayomi Lowe listens to advice from his coach Mike Perry on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sophomore Abayomi Lowe practices in the halls of Hartford High School with the indoor track team on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 in White River Junction, Vt., to prepare for state championships. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 03, 2017

White River Junction — Abayomi Lowe looks back at his freshman track and field season at Hartford High like a combination of a bad dream and cautionary folklore. Both knees were shot, torn up with patellar tendonitis, brought on by an increased varsity workload that benched him after only two winter track meets. A pulled hamstring made it hard to stay on the track as well.

He wasn’t ready, looking back on it now. He hadn’t prepared the right way, hadn’t eaten right, hadn’t taken it seriously. Raw, untrained power he discovered as a 9-year-old had only gotten him so far. Lowe finished his freshman spring well short of his expectations, his knees still bothering him.

A year later Lowe, a sophomore with the Hurricanes, is a prominent name on the Vermont Principals Association Division II indoor track circuit as a top sprinter. He’s qualified for three events at Saturday’s Vermont Indoor State Championship meet at Norwich University; he’s the top seed in the boys 300-meter run, second behind Harwood’s Seth Beard in the boys 55-meter dash and is the anchor runner for Hartford’s fourth-seeded 4x400 relay team.

Lowe holds the D-II state record in the boys 300 and set Hartford school records in the 300 and the 55. His accomplishments have energized Canes track and field coach Mike Perry, who has wasted no time building his boys team around Hartford’s budding star.

But above it all is Lowe’s reinvigorated confidence, finally rebuilt after injuries forced him off course. This time, Lowe is confident he’s doing everything the right way.

“Some of it I kind of expected, because I’ve been working pretty hard,” Lowe said after a relatively light practice Tuesday afternoon. “It’s given me a lot of confidence going forward. Last year, I didn’t have the best year. I had a lot of injuries. It’s just good to see that things are starting to come together.”

Running is a family tradition in Lowe’s family. His sister, Nia, ran for Hartford; both his parents ran track in high school. It was because of his sister, Lowe said, that he started running, though his initial interest — and an admiration of Olympic runners — kept him coming back.

“It makes me better,” he said. “It gives me something to focus on. With schoolwork and all that, once I come back from a workout, I’m more focused.”

It didn’t take long for Lowe to realize he was naturally better than other athletes.

In eighth grade, Lowe got serious about running. But when he reached Perry, Lowe was still an unknown commodity hampered by injuries. As a sophomore, Lowe has caught Perry, and opposing Vermont coaches, by surprise, illustrated by the disheartened glances coaches who hadn’t prepared for Lowe give as he rushes by.

“I knew he was going to be good,” Perry said. “I just didn’t know he was going to be this good, at this level, this fast. I’m just really excited for the next couple of years for him, because this can open up a lot of doors.”

Lowe’s success also has helped Hartford get back on the map, providing Perry with a young, stable complement to girls junior running standout Ileana Sirois to help build the Hurricanes’ ranks.

Maturity and leadership has emerged, Lowe said, out of his freshman season on the sidelines. He learned a lot about the things off the track that make some athletes stand above others — preparing the right way, eating the right things, making sure his body and mind are in the right spot. Lowe tries not to use his phone before a meet, for example, to make sure he’s concentrating on the task at hand.

More importantly, his knees and hamstring are fine, injuries he equates more to a lack of focus than to anything more physical or drastic. Relaxed and confident, Lowe hopes his recent accomplishments are only the beginning.

“Normally when I run, I can remember every little thing,” Lowe said. “I’m pushing really hard to beat everyone. But (a couple of weeks ago at the University of Vermont), I went in kind of relaxed because I knew my times were getting better. … When I finished the race, I knew when I came out, I saw the guy to my right and I knew I was a step ahead of him; I was like, ‘OK, don’t lose this.’ Then I don’t really remember anything. I just remember feeling really relaxed. I’ve never felt that loose. I feel like it’s good. It’s like muscle memory. Now, my races are starting to feel more and more like that.

“I just have to do a lot to maintain my body. That way, what happened last year doesn’t happen again. Last year didn’t go how I wanted it to go. But I think in the end, it taught me a lot that I never would have (gotten otherwise). If I had the success that I wanted last year, I probably wouldn’t have learned half the things I know now.”

Saturday’s Vermont Indoor State Championship will feature plenty of familiar teams and familiar names in familiar high-seeded positions among in VPA D-II.

Oxbow’s girls team, one season after falling just short to Rice, could once again give the biggest teams in D-II a run for their money. Izzy Giesing is a heavy favorite to win the girls 1,600 and 1,000 meters when she isn’t anchoring the Olympians’ top-ranked 4x800 relay team and second-ranked 4x400 relay team. Leanne Burgess is ranked third in the girls 3,200, and Emily Carson is ranked sixth in the girls 55 hurdles, both of which should help Oxbow gain some valuable points.

Oxbow’s boys are led by its 4x200 relay team of Harley Wescott, Brennan Kimball, Jake Stimson and Jarret Rock. Jon Puffer is also the favorite to win the boys pole vault.

Individually, no Upper Valley athlete will be busier than Hartford’s Sirois, who is ranked second in the girls triple jump, long jump and 55 hurdles and is ranked seventh in the girls 55 meter dash. Perry is hoping his boys and girls teams could break into the top five.

Thetford, competing as a club team for the final time, has qualified for plenty of events in preparation for its jump to varsity next season. Caleb Davidson is seeded second in the boys shot put, Grace Clement is seeded second in the girls high jump and Hannah Harkins is seeded second in the girls pole vault and third in the girls triple jump. Noah Stommel is the top seed in the boys 600.

But no race will be tighter than the girls 1,600 with defending champion Giesing going up against up-and-coming Panther distance star Meaggie Balch as second seed and Whitcomb’s Alexandra Timmins as third seed. Lowe’s race against Harwood’s Beard in the boys 55 could also come down to the wire.

Sunday’s NHIAA Indoor Track and Field Championship at Dartmouth College will have plenty of Lebanon representation, although the level of competition in D-II may make the Raiders’ chances at a team title difficult to realize.

Cornell-bound Corinne Kennedy will participate in her final indoor state meet on familiar ground as the top seed in girls 300, 55, 55 hurdles and high jump. Marcus Roper is the top seed in the boys shot put, Kath Merchant the top seed in the girls shot put and Ryan Sullivan the top seed in the boys long jump.

Hanover’s Morgan Baughman is ranked sixth in the boys 1,500, and the Marauders’ 4x400 relay — with Baughman, Benjamin Sobel, Sam Pych and Colm Seigne — is ranked seventh. Hanover’s girls 4x400 relay team is ranked fifth and could break the top three.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.