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Surprise, surprise: Freshman could be key to Oxbow boys track hopes

  • Oxbow High School freshman Tobin Durham, 15, of Corinth, left, and senior Lara Jones, 17, ride in the back of senior Brennan Kimball's pickup truck while ferrying starting blocks from the school to the track for practice in Bradford, Vt., Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tobin Durham, 15, of Corinth, runs back to track practice at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., after forgetting his running shoes Thursday, April 11, 2019. Durham competes in the 800 meter, 1500 meter, and 3000 meter runs. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tobin Durham, 15, of Corinth, cools down after running hills during track practice at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., Thursday, April 11, 2019. The team will compete in its first meet of the season in South Burlington on Wednesday, April 17. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, April 15, 2019

BRADFORD, Vt. — Oxbow High distance runner Tobin Durham looks back at his rookie indoor track season with a smile. It would hard to script a better ending.

Durham, 15, of Corinth, came out of nowhere in his debut campaign at the VPA indoor state meet at the University of Vermont in February, stealing critical points from Thetford Academy in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters to help the Olympian boys win their first indoor state title. He was exhausted, he admitted, after the first of his two races that day, a runner-up finish in the 1,500 that was 5.12 seconds behind Thetford multi-sport star Owen Deffner. Durham followed it up finishing third in the 3,000, a result that clinched Oxbow’s title.

“Oxbow did well beyond what we thought they were going to do,” said Thetford indoor head coach Charlie Buttrey after the state meet. “That Tobin guy made all the difference.”

Exhaustion, it seems, is something Durham is used to. He is a strong cross country skier and competed for the Ford Sayre Ski Council in between indoor track meets and practices over the winter. But running, Durham said, is his passion.

A couple of clutch races and a state title have only solidified it.

“(Winning indoor states) was really exciting,” Durham said during the start of an Oxbow outdoor practice on Thursday. “We thought we had a really good shot at winning, then a whole bunch of people got injured. We had sort of given up on that. Then, throughout the day, we slowly caught other teams. We fell behind in the throwing. By the end, we were on top.”

Durham’s distance races were two of the last events of the day, his results putting the finishing touches on Oxbow’s championship-winning comeback.

“He was definitely a surprise in that he exceeded expectations,” Oxbow co-coach Amy Cook said. “I would also say that the really cool thing for me that day was that we brought six young men and all six of them made points. … He made a big difference, as did the rest of the kids.”

Durham addition has also made the Oxbow boys team as complete as ever for the now-underway outdoor season, with a Vermont D-III title that is suddenly ripe for the taking. Bellows Falls, the three-time dual girls and boys defending D-III track champions, has departed to D-II, leaving a void at the top that Oxbow is primed to fill.

Oxbow’s talented multi-eventers — Jarret Rock, Timothy Hodges, Max Klarich and Calvin Cook — are finally competing with confidence after their indoor success, but none of them are endurance runners. Adding Durham has filled that hole, giving the O’s a chance at some vital points at outdoor states.

“He has an excellent sense of pace,” Cook said. “When you’re doing 16 to 30 laps on the track, especially when you’re moving from the road to a 200-meter track, it’s really hard to know. If you do 12 laps a second too slow, you’re 12 seconds behind. It’s hard to make that up. A sense of pace is very important, and for a lot of athletes, it takes a lot of time to figure (that) out.

“It’s an extremely mental sport. It’s a mind game. You can see it on his face. He gets it.”

Durham has been running track — a sport he originally used as a way to continue training for cross country skiing in the offseason — for four years. He ended up liking track better, finding success in middle school, but continued Nordic skiing into his freshman year. Durham finished 27th in 5K classic at the the New England Nordic Association U-16 championships in early March.

Doing two sports at once this winter, he said, was not exactly easy.

“I was very sore,” he said. “It was a lot of running.”

His results at the indoor state meet, though, made it worth it.

“It was a lot of fun,” Durham said. “I know I did come out of nowhere, because I could have been doing cross country skiing. But I did have some experience running against top (athletes) from middle school. It was just really fun to come from behind and not be expecting to do well.

“It was exciting, standing on the starting line and knowing that nobody else knew how fast you were. I’m sure it was a surprise.”

Cook is excited to get more time to help Durham improve this spring; his dual winter sports left Oxbow’s coaches with little time to work on technique and strategy. The O’s hope a little bit of hands-on training will help lift Durham to another level.

“Tobin is absolutely that combination of talented, motivated and competitive,” Cook said. “When you get a kid who is motivated to learn what you have to teach, (is) super-competitive and who is also is talented, he’s going to blossom. … He’s the kind of kid that totally has a plan to make a name for himself. He’s very motivated and a competitive athlete.”

In a wide-open D-III, Oxbow hopes Durham’s emergence makes the difference at the championship level twice in the four-month span.

“(We have) confidence,” Durham said. “And for me, knowing that I can run that fast without a ton of training, I think we have a lot going for us right now. We have a really good shot at winning.”

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