Daunte Henriques, 12, captured gold in the 400m dash at the prestigious Hershey’s Track and Field Games in Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of Tammie Lowes)
When Daunte Henriques raced the 400-metre distance and crossed the finish line in first place recently at the prestigious Hershey's Track and Field Games in Pennsylvania, his mother finally figured out why her 12-year-old was constantly on the go since he was a baby.
He was born to run.
“I was excited,” said Tammie Lowes, who got to see her son win the event in a time of 59.99 seconds. “I think everyone in the stands knew that was my baby.
“When he was little, the child never stopped (moving) and I complained all the time because he was always moving.
“It paid off now.”
For Henriques, the race to the top of the podium hasn't taken much time at all.
Playing soccer as a youngster, Henriques didn't start running competitively until last June. After competing at the county track and field meet, the soon-to-be Grade 7 student at Teeterville Public School was encouraged to join a club by a vice-principal.
After joining the Brantford Track and Field Club, Henriques experienced immediate success. This season, he qualified for the Hershey meet – which features some of the best track and field athletes in North America – by blistering to a 59.25 personal best at a qualifying meet.
Henriques was one of 26 Ontario residents to attend the meet. Lowes was a little concerned with letting her youngest child go away on his own, especially considering he's an asthmatic who needs to take his medication on a regular basis.
“Daunte was off on his own, he's never been out of Ontario and he's never been that far from me,” said Lowes. “We were all pretty nervous.
“We knew he could do it. He has the speed. But we knew he would be nervous so we were nervous for him.”
Daunte, whose father, Donavon, is also a big supporter, was apprehensive as well.
“I felt very nervous at the meet,” he said. “Before that I wasn't that nervous. I was comfortable with my team but I was nervous with all those people watching. I'm not good in front of crowds.
“It was still there until I started to run.”
There were no preliminary heats at the Hershey meet, just a final. Lowes, who was accompanied by her daughter, Stephanie, and son, Thomas, along with several other family members, watched her son line up against runners from the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada in the eight-person final.
Lowes said Henriques started in Lane 3 and quickly raced past a couple of his competitors. At the 100-metre mark he was second or third and by the 200-metre point of the race he was neck and neck with Joshua Dupree from Fayette, Ga.
Lowes felt as the race entered its second half, her son was faltering and by about the 300-metre mark, Henriques was a few strides back. However, coming down the home stretch, Lowes yelled encouragement to her son and that seemed to inspire him.
“He was right in front of the podium and I screamed at him and it was just like all of a sudden that second, third, fourth wind hit,” said Lowes of what took place with 75 metres to go. “I was trying to snap a picture and by the time I hit the snap he was long gone. He was already past (Dupree).”
Dupree would finish second in 1:01.43 while Puerto Rico's Felix Tapia was third in 1:02.31.
“I felt like I was moving extremely slow and then at the last bit, I pushed,” said Henriques.
“Sometimes it's my mom or my dad yelling at me to push myself but sometimes I just have extra energy.”
Henriques was certain where the 400 win ranked in his short career.
“This one I think is my biggest win,” he said.
Now back training at home, Henriques obviously has a bright future ahead of him. His long-term goal is to represent his country at the highest level.
“My goal is to make it to the Olympics,” Henriques said.