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Huntington’s Abi Brown overcomes tumultuous year

FERRIDAY — When life kept throwing challenges at Huntington senior track standout Abi Brown, she did what she’s always done.

She kept running.

In a tumultuous year that included the death of her father and the fact that she runs track at a school that had neither a track team nor a track coach, Brown overcame everything to be the valedictorian in the final graduating class at Huntington and the winner of the final two Huntington state championships, taking first place in the 100 and 300-meter hurdles at the MAIS State Meet on April 24. Brown’s school announced two months ago that it will close for good after graduation.

“I’ve always been a competitive person,” Brown said. “It’s what drives me. I like to give everything I’ve got, to show that I worked harder than everybody else.”

How Brown got started jumping hurdles is a testament to her competitiveness and will to succeed.

“In sixth grade they let us out on the playground, and I saw the hurdles out there, and I said ‘I’m going to do that,’” Brown said. “I was short and chunky at the time and everybody was like ‘Abi, you ain’t got a shot.’ I said ‘I’m going to do that, it looks cool.’ So I did and I guess I proved everybody wrong.”

Apparently so. Brown has excelled at the discipline, having won 12 state medals and seven state championships since her freshman year, including the two this year.

She also currently holds the MAIS state record in the 300-meter hurdles she set at the South State meet.

But this year was different and much more challenging than all the others on many different levels.

To begin with, Huntington, with its rapidly shrinking enrollment, didn’t field a track team, leaving Brown to fend for herself when it came to training.

“I was like ‘How am I going to do this?’” Brown said. “All year long, during basketball season I was like ‘What am I going to do in track season?’ It’s my senior year, and if I didn’t do well it would be really disappointing. I was stressed.”

But with the help of her uncle and aunt, Travis and Connie Brown, and the benevolence of other area schools, she found a way.

“My aunt and uncle were by biggest supporters this year,” Abi said. “They called other schools and found me places to train.”

Since Travis Brown’s sons go to Cathedral, Abi was able to train with the Cathedral track team for part of the year.

She also spent lots of time working with trainer Casey Young at Trinity Episcopal School.

“He was awesome at pushing me,” Abi said. “He told me I was going to go out on top.”

But while the track situation was working itself out, another bigger challenge arose the week before the South State meet. Abi’s father died.

But once again, her family stood by her side and supported her through the tough situation.

“I don’t know how many times I prayed ‘God I need your help with this,’” Abi said. “And I got a lot of help. My aunt and uncle are my salvation. If I ever needed anything, they took care of me.”

Her uncle, Travis Brown, said Abi’s perseverance kept her pointed in the right direction in this trying year.

“She’s always had a drive to her,” Travis Brown said. “We try to encourage her in the right way. We push her and try to lead her in the right direction.”

And that perseverance paid off on April 24 at Mississippi College in Clinton when Abi took first place in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

“I pulled through and showed everyone I’ve still got it,” Abi said. “People were expecting me to not be in shape because I didn’t have a team, but I proved once again that if I set my mind to it, I can do it.”

But while those accomplishments filled her with pride, it was a bittersweet feeling because she was closing the book on a proud athletic legacy at Huntington.

“Standing on that podium (during the awards presentation) I thought about it,” she said. “I’ve been at Huntington my whole life and learned a lot there. I hope we can show that Huntington made us all excellent students and athletes and we set a great example for our school.”

But Abi Brown’s track career is not over by a long shot. She has been awarded a track scholarship to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

And if the past year is any indication, don’t look for her to back down from any challenges she might face on the collegiate track scene.

“She has overcome a lot of obstacles this year,” Travis Brown said. “But she still turned right around and won state and set a state record. It takes a strong person to do that.”

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