The Day's All-Area Girls' Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: NFA's Allyson Lewis
Allyson Lewis can tell you the moment, practically down to the minutes and seconds, that she first cleared 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump. It was Jan. 13 at the Southern Connecticut Conference Coaches’ Invitational at New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center.
“That’s when I knew, ‘I can do these bigger heights,'” said Lewis, a junior at Norwich Free Academy. “That jump put me No. 1 in the state (rankings).”
“When she jumped 5-6 and looked in the national database, she saw she was tied for eighth in the U.S.,” NFA coach Tom Teixeira said. “She thought, ‘I can really be something here.’”
Lewis was named The Day’s 2018 All-Area Girls’ Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“She’s really, really passionate about the sport and passionate about her event,” Teixeira said. “She’ll just go online and watch high jump videos. (Former NFA boys’ high jumper) Marquis Ward, he ended up winning his conference championship at college. She would send him her videos and he would give her feedback.”
Lewis won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship (5-4), the Class LL state meet (5-6), State Open (5-6) and finished eighth in the championship flight at the New Balance Nationals in New York City, conquering a personal best of 5-7, all part of the finest season of her career.
There was a reason for it. A new level of confidence.
Until this season, Lewis’ mental approach was somewhat of a problem, she said. If she missed a jump, she grew angry at herself. If she lost an event? More aggravation.
A stress fracture in her right foot during last year’s outdoor season only served to exacerbate the situation when she returned and felt healthy, yet couldn’t clear her old heights.
Teixeira and assistant coach Jackie Sullivan undertook helping Lewis not only with her technique — she spent practices repeating her approach over and over, then stayed after to watch herself on film — but with her mentality.
“At the beginning of the season, I would stress myself out. (An opponent) just made this height, so I need to make it,” Lewis said. “Now it’s me against the bar, not me against other people. If I miss an attempt, I just calm down. I learned how to conquer the mental aspect of high jump. I just stay calm. I’m definitely still nervous at meets, but it’s easier for me to handle pressure.”
At the State Open, Lewis, Patricia Mroczkowski of Berlin and Monique Anderson of Bloomfield all cleared 5-6 and then missed all three attempts at 5-8. Because Lewis and Mroczkowski both cleared 5-6 on their first attempt, the tiebreaker between the two came down to their jumps at 5-4. Lewis made it on her first attempt, while Mroczkowski did not, giving Lewis the victory.
“If I was in that position (before this year), competing for first, I would have completely lost it,” Lewis said.
“Just from the maturity standpoint, she made probably the biggest jump I’ve seen in my career,” Teixeira said. “In terms of being confident, amazing.”
Lewis capped the season at the nationals, competing amid the buzz of The Armory in New York City. Because the coaches weren’t allowed near the high jump area, Teixeira and Sullivan wrote notes to her on white boards. Mainly, they made sure she was prepared ahead of time, getting the idea from Ward to raise the bar all the way to 5-10 and 5-11 in practice to make the lesser heights seem almost easy.
“There are thousands of people there. She was pretty nervous. Jackie and I were pretty nervous, as well. It was back to basics for all of us,” Teixeira said. “She was kind of all on her own. It was like, ‘From a coaching standpoint, have you taught her absolutely everything you know?’”
Lewis cleared 5-7 on her first try before bowing out at 5-8.75, the winning height.
Lewis, who is 5-foot-9, has been high jumping since the fifth grade, she said, first clearing 5-0 when she was in the eighth grade at Lisbon Central School under coach Judy Fontaine-Higgins, the former U.S. pentathlete.
She has been receiving offers from colleges; her mom, Theresa, is most proud of the first, which came from the U.S. Naval Academy. She works out religiously at Rose City Athletics.
She had yet to start practice for NFA’s spring track season when she set up a high jumping session with Ward in the school gym.
“High jump’s always fun for me,” the 16-year-old Lewis said. “There’s always something to fix. I think I’ve come a long way.”
The Day's 2018 All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Team
Player of the Year – Allyson Lewis (NFA)
55 meters – Madison Powe (Fitch)
300 – Zora LaBonte (Waterford)
600 – Kayla Park (NFA)
1,000, 1,600 – Mady Whittaker (Montville)
3,200 – Rasa Kirvelevicius (East Lyme)
55 hurdles – Sophia Podeszwa (Waterford)
4x200 relay – Fitch (Madison Powe, Lily Johnson, Abigail Rogers, Egypt Hurley)
4x400 relay – East Lyme (Saige Deveau, Julia Bates, Laura Agbayani, Claire Mason)
4x800 relay – Stonington (Megan Detwiler, Emma Small, Lindsey Orr, Jessica Detwiler)
Sprint medley relay – East Lyme (Saige Deveau, Hannah Gellar, Claire Mason, Julia Bates)
Pole vault – Paige Martin (NFA)
Long jump – Rhema Phillips (Grasso Tech)
Shot put – Jamie Foster (East Lyme)
Utility – Catie Shannon (NFA)