The first time Avery Lewis ran in a formal race, she was a 6-year-old competing with 8-year-olds in a 100-meter dash. “I was just out there having fun,” she says. “I was just running.”
Meanwhile, her parents were filled with worry. “I was nervous and anxious,” says Terrence Lewis. “She was just this little girl out there running.”
Lewis and his wife, LaeDoan, shouldn’t have been concerned. “[Avery] won by 50 meters,” her father says.
That victory made the Lewis family pretty popular. Coaches approached them, and people told them to start booking flights to Houston for the AAU Junior Olympic Games. Later that summer, the Parkesburg resident and her parents were in Texas, where she continued to shine.
Over the next several years, Lewis set age-group records in the long jump and piled up medals in sprints. Though she was still a young girl enjoying the freedom of running fast and “playing in the sand in the long jump pit,” Lewis was establishing herself as one of the top track-and-field performers in the nation. This past August, she represented the United States in the Pan American U20 Athletic Championships in Puerto Rico, where she won the long jump (20 feet, 5 inches) and ran the third leg on the 400-meter relay team that took gold (42.88 seconds).
Lewis enters her senior year at Friends Central School as Pennsylvania’s reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in girls’ track and field—and she could well find a spot in the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials. Every top-level college coach has contacted her about attending their schools, with those in warmer climates having the early advantage. “It’s a blessing for her to be in this position,” says her father.
Lewis is also in a unique spot at Friends Central, thanks to her exceptional talent. She competes in few meets for the school, choosing to prioritize higher-level events to prepare for competitions like the Pan Am Games. “She’s a tremendous athlete and has God-given abilities we don’t see very often,” says Michelle Crowley, Friends Central’s athletic director. “To provide her with the space and opportunity to compete at that level is a no-brainer. Of course we’re going to support her. She’s an amazing athlete who has accomplished so much.”
“She’s a tremendous athlete and has God-given abilities we don’t see very often,” says Michelle Crowley, Friends Central’s athletic director. “To provide her with the space and opportunity to compete at that level is a no-brainer.”
A top student, Lewis is active in the Black Student Forum at Friends Central. And she’s popular with her friends—so long as she doesn’t sing. Fellow FCS senior Caitlyn Miller-Showell cringes at the memory of Lewis singing Muni Long’s “Hrs & Hrs” over and over … and over. “She chooses to sing in front of me, and she knows I hate it,” says her good friend. “She does it the loudest she can, and she won’t stop. If she likes a song, she’ll run it into a hole. She’ll make you hate it because she loves it.”
According to Miller-Showell, Lewis rarely talks about her athletic achievements. “She’s so humble,” Miller-Showell says. “It’s crazy.”
When Lewis was a junior, she led a squad of six FCS athletes to the state indoor track championship meet at Lehigh University. Though they were competing against much larger schools, they won the state team title, thanks to Lewis’ four first-place finishes—60 meters, 200 meters, 400-meter relay and long jump. Last season, with just two runners, Friends Central finished second at indoor states. “She’s just a phenomenal runner,” Crowley says. “But she’s eager to learn more. How can I improve my start? How can I improve the last part of the race? How can I improve my takeoff in the long jump? She’s always a student that way.”
Lewis’ mom was a track athlete in school. “But I was nowhere as fast as Avery,” she admits.
She and her husband coach Lewis, who began running for a track team started by Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Mount Airy. The family lived in Overbrook Park when Lewis and her brother, T.J., were young. Lewis started at Friends Central in prekindergarten, and her mother has been a teacher there for several years. From first to seventh grade, Lewis competed for Infinity Track Club under FCS track coach Brandon Shell. Always a sprinter, she’d run cross-country in the fall for conditioning. “It definitely wasn’t her favorite,” her mom says.
As a grade-schooler, Lewis also participated in the Colgate Women’s Games, winning events every year. By high school, she was competing indoors for Friends Central but not participating in dual meets. Lewis trains at tracks near the family home in Parkesburg and sometimes under her parents’ tutelage at Friends Central. And she competes for the school in championship meets. At 2023’s Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association competition, she won the 100, 200 and long jump to help FCS finish third overall.
Though Lewis doesn’t participate in every Friends Central competition, she has the support of her teammates. “They always say, ‘Hi, Avery. Good luck,’” she says.
Lewis understands that expectations will continue to rise, and the attention she receives will grow. Still, she understands what must be done. “I have to take care of myself and get the proper training,” she says. “I want to go for it, so I can’t take days off. I know my goals—and in order to achieve them, I have to keep grinding.”