Source: Washington Academy - Washington Academy juniors Michaiah Robinson and Oneko Lowe are preparing for Saturday’s 71st annual New England Interscholastic Track and Field Championships where they have worked out throughout the spring.
“It’s probably 90 meters long, so we didn’t have a straight place to run, and it’s next to the river, so you can’t throw a discus or a javelin there,” said WA track coach Stephen Richard. “Facility-wise it’s really difficult to practice. The only time we can really practice is when we come to a meet. It’s difficult but we do what we can.”
What Washington Academy does have is approximately 30 young athletes willing to make it work. Robinson and Lowe, two boarding students who arrived on campus from their native Bermuda in January, nearly shocked the state’s track and field world during Saturday’s Class C state championship meet in Dover-Foxcroft.
The duo combined to win three individual events, lead a first-place relay team and account for 62 of the teams 63 points as Washington Academy finished a narrow second to small-school powerhouse Orono, which finished with 74 points to secure its second straight state title.
“Coming into this meet I knew we’d do well with Michaiah and Oneko and our 4×100 team,” said Richard. “Point-wise we did the best we could have done. We really could not have done any better as far as everyone doing what they were supposed to do. It was incredible.”
Robinson qualified for the New Englands by winning the 200- and 400-meter dashes in 22.65 and 50.13 seconds, respectively. He was on the sprint relay with Lowe, D’Nye-Jha Hayward and Philipp Schunicht that won in 45.15 seconds.
Robinson’s 400 time was the fastest in this year’s state meets, regardless of class. His 200 time was just five-hundredths of a second behind Class B champion Zackery Haskell of Gray-New Gloucester.
“Michaiah told me the times he could run from when he was in Bermuda, and I honestly didn’t believe him,” said Richard. “The times he told me were quite fast and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll believe it when I see it.’ I believe him now.”
Robinson and Lowe finished 1-2 in the 200, with Lowe just 0.31 seconds behind.
“Before the race I had a feeling I was going to win but I wasn’t overconfident,” said Robinson. “My teammate Oneko is fast so I wasn’t sure if I was going to beat him. We both had good starts but I felt like he was pulling away, so as we reached the turn I searched my form and raised my knees up and coming into the last 100 meters I realized I was in first so I sprinted to the finish.
Lowe also qualified for the New England meet in New Britain, Connecticut, by winning the long jump with a best of 20 feet, 9¼ inches despite the few opportunities he had to fully practice throughout the spring.
Both Robinson — named outstanding male performer a week earlier at the Penobscot Valley Conference small-school championships after sweeping the sprints — and Lowe arrived in “My mother wanted me to go to a different environment of learning and she wanted me to get better opportunities and to be seen more,” said Robinson. “My school in Bermuda [Cedarbridge Academy] actually referred me to Washington Academy. They told me to look at this school and I really wasn’t paying it any mind but my mother did and she felt it was a good fit for me.”
That was, at least, once he adapted to the climate change.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how to react,” Robinson said. “When I first got here it was cold, I was freezing. I was wearing a puffy jacket. I didn’t know what to do. My fingers were numb, my toes were numb, I didn’t even have the right shoes.”
“We do the best we can with what we have facility-wise,” said Richard, “but they came here relatively well coached already and they are the most naturally talented athletes I’ve ever coached.”