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    Wednesday, September 27, 2023

    Lyme-Old Lyme senior is up for the challenge

    Lyme-Old Lyme senior Harry Whitten at the school’s track on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Old Lyme ― Lyme-Old Lyme High School senior Harry Whitten has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

    The 17-year-old put it this way: “I don’t really like easy things.”

    That meant pushing himself to run a 4:45 minute mile by his junior year before he pulled a hamstring muscle in the lead-up to this year’s indoor track season. He came back at the end of the season only to experience the audible pop again at the Shoreline Athletic Conference championship in the opening leg of the 4x800 relay.

    He spent about two months doing weekly physical therapy sessions and daily exercises before returning to the track for the spring season. He called it “humbling” to have to work so hard to do even the most rudimentary movements.

    “It really taught me to be grateful for basic things that people can easily take for granted,” he said.

    The Old Lyme resident will attend the University of Michigan in the fall, where he plans to study computer engineering while serving as a member of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC). His goal is to work in the cybersecurity field for the Navy and then as a civilian.

    Whitten said he grew up hearing stories from his grandfather about serving in World War II and chose the Navy because he wanted to follow in his footsteps.

    While he won’t be a part of the cross country or track programs at the university, the kid who likes a challenge noted “there will be a lot of running with ROTC.”

    Whitten said computer science was another challenge for him.

    “Part of the reason why I like computer science and cybersecurity in the first place is because it was one of the first things I found really, really difficult,” he said. “And then once I got it, it was really rewarding.”

    Science teacher Richard Fisler, who taught Whitten physics and computer science, described him as tenacious.

    “Once he starts on a problem, he doesn't give up on it,” Fisler said in a phone interview this week.

    He said Whitten’s inquisitiveness and willingness to take risks made him excel in coding. It also made the student easy to teach.

    “That’s really great when that happens, because you become less of a teacher and more of a coach in the classroom. And that makes that 85 minutes (of class time) such a fun experience.”

    Whitten is the only child of William Whitten and Grigoria Kapeli, who work in the computer software industry and the New London school system, respectively. He credited his mother, born in Peru, with laying the foundation for his interest in the Spanish language.

    Whitten plans to continue studying Spanish at college, which is a decision that has the support of his high school Spanish teacher Juan José Vázquez-Caballero.

    “To be able to understand Spanish, and also the culture, is going to make him an asset for any company,” Vázquez-Caballero said over the phone this week.

    The Spanish teacher called Whitten a curious student who is adept at making others comfortable. He pointed to Whitten’s role in writing letters to migrant children separated from their families at the border or helping a small group of students practice English after arriving at Lyme-Old Lyme High School from Ecuador.

    “He’s a strong leader. He wants to make this society a better place,” Vázquez-Caballero said.


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