By: Joe Cicchino - Sports Information Assistant
FORT WASHINGTON -- Fore Abinusawa '22 looks like a normal high school freshman. Before practice starts, she is hanging out and chatting with friends on the team, talking about the school day and making jokes. The talking continues through the warm ups.
Not much about the freshman is intimidating until she steps onto the track. When it comes to running 55 meters, 60 meters and 200 meters, it is hard to find a high school girl who is better. Abinusawa has run times of 7.33 and 24.35 in 60 and 200, respectively, giving her the top and second-best time in the state. The results are no surprise to head Coach Dion Lehman.
“If you would’ve looked at some of those middle school times or her club times coming in, we knew that she would be fast,” Lehman said. “You still have to come out and perform so we were hopeful she’d have a year like this. Even when you expect someone to be great, it’s hard to imagine someone having a season like she’s having.”
Abinusawa did not wait long to come onto the scene. At the first meet of the season, the freshman ran 6.95 in the 55-meter dash, setting the Germantown Academy record. It was also the top time in the United States.
“I was pretty excited for the meet,” Abinusawa said. “I knew I was getting in good workouts and was excited to go and have a good showing. I was really happy because my prelim time was a PR and then the final was another PR and U.S. No. 1. That was really cool.”
Abinusawa started by playing soccer. Eventually, the sideline began murmuring about how fast she was, so her father signed her up for track. She began doing that in the spring of her fourth-grade year and continued to do it through the summer.
She went to the AAU Junior Olympics the same year with her club track team and medaled in her first competition. She began doing winter track the following year while continuing running in the spring.
Running middle school track at GA, Abinusawa said that she was not running times that she wanted, but began getting closer to her outdoor PR’s as the season wore one. The freshman thinks that the elevated level of competition in high school has helped her run such great times this year.
“It’s definitely pushed me,” Abinusawa said. “Despite the age, it comes down to who’s the fastest. I think that mentality has helped me realize it doesn’t matter how old they are or what they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, the freshman is putting a lot of focus on what she is doing. Lehman, as well as former Olympian and Vault/Sprints Coach Lawrence Johnson raved about Abinusawa’s work ethic and character. Both coaches said that helping her build strength has been key this season.
“The big things we’ve been focusing on is her strength and her technique,” Johnson said. “She began the year with a core that needed a little development and while she’s been fast, we see issues with heel recovery, being able to stay tall and run. We feel like it’s something that could be changed easily and make a huge difference.”
Right now, Abinusawa is the fastest girl in the 55-meter dash and the 200 meters. Her performance in the 60 meters places her in the top-30 of high school athletes ever, according to Johnson. The coach continued, calling her a “phenom” and saying, “Fores don’t come around too often.”
Both coaches agreed that coaching the freshman has been wonderful. Lehman said that Abinusawa is a great athlete and runner, but also a great teammate who the team rallies behind. He added that she puts others in front of her and cares about the team. While her times on the track are directly helping her win, they may also be having a positive effect on the team.
“What’s fun is that I think it’s raised the bar of all of our athletes,” Lehman said. “I think our entire sprint program is pushing themselves and growing. I think a part of that is when you have top-level performers on your team, it raises the caliber of everyone.”
Abinusawa said her season so far has been “pretty good.” She said she has set personal-best times in the 55 and the 200 and is happy with her training. The fact that her hard work has been showcased with her results is just a plus.
Recently, the freshman had the opportunity to run at the historic Millrose Games. She said that felt good during warmups and was “confident and ready” going into the races, which was evident by her time. Abinusawa ran the 60m in 7.33, a time that set a new GA record, U.S. No. 1 time and tied Pennsylvania’s all-time record in the event.
This weekend, Abinusawa will have a chance to add another medal to her resume. She will be running in the 60m and 200m at the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association Indoor States meet on Feb. 24.
Lehman said that this week is more about tuning up than anything. He believes that Abinusawa’s future is bright. However, she is still a freshman and he wants her to be able to enjoy that time as well.
“I think she’s got opportunities to go in and win,” Lehman said. “For her, I want her to have a good experience and enjoy the sport. She’s going to be doing this sport for a long time – she has the opportunity to – so she shouldn’t feel any pressure as a freshman to go into these races and perform. As long as she goes, knows that she put her best foot forward and has fun, it’ll be a success no matter what time she runs."