* Tyler Lowe at Nike Indoor Nationals in March
Photo Credit: MileSplit
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By Cory Mull - MileSplit
Tyler Lowe's season had gone according to plan, at least originally.
Before this past weekend, the Chattahoochee High School junior -- a talented 16-year-old track athlete whose family resided about 30 minutes north of Atlanta, Georgia -- had run times of 11.79 for 100 meters, 23.98 seconds for 200 meters and 53.92 for 400 meters.
All were among Georgia's top performances, across any classification.
And all would have placed Lowe, one of the more talented sprinters in the country, toward a potential state championship this year, her first as a high school athlete.
But while those moments accounted for the top performances of her career and, for most, would have led to more success at the state championships, cracks began to form soon after.
Days before the McEachern Invitational, which came just 10 days before the GHSA 5A Region 6 Championships -- the first round of qualifying for the Georgia state series -- Lowe and her parents disagreed with the team's coaches on the selection of her events.
Lowe had hoped to run the 100, 200m and 400m. But coaches ultimately did not select her for the 200m, an event where she led the team and was No. 2 in the state.
Chattahoochee head coach Mike Morris and head girls coach Breanna Radford then selected Lowe for the 4x400 and told the junior that she had to run the event in order to help the team's overall goals.
After the team's coaches had a conversation with Tyler's mother, Vanessa, after a practice, Radford sent an email to Vanessa outlining what needed to happen at the McEachern meet in order for her daughter's season to continue.
"If Tyler chooses not to compete in all 3 of those events, then we will hold her out of our next competition, which is Region. This will effectively end her season," Radford wrote.
Two days later, Lowe obliged.
She ran the first two events in scintillating form, capturing two new PRs -- including her first performance under 24 seconds for 200m.
In her third event, however, she lost the Midas touch.
Lowe ran the second leg of the 4x400 and struggled before handing off to her teammate. Later, she told MileSplit she was exhausted from two PRs.
MileSplit reached out to the Chattahoochee head coach Morris to verify the split, but he declined to comment and forwarded all contact to Brian Noe, the Chief Communications Officer at Fulton County Schools.
MileSplit could not corroborate the exact time of the split. Lowe's family, however, did comment.
"It was particularly slow," Tyler's father, David, said. "It could have been 1:10 to 1:15 ...it was a slow pace."
Even with the split, the Lowe's said the team ran 15 seconds faster than their seed entering the race. Chattahoochee finished last in the field, registering a time of 4:44.67. Even if Lowe had run 20 seconds faster, the team would have finished no better than 11th.
This, however, is where problems began to surface.
"When I came off the track, I was getting water and I was laid out on the ground," Tyler said. "I got up to ask (my coaches) what our splits were and stuff and what our time was. They said, 'get away from me.' They didn't want to hear from me. Half of the team, people who didn't even race, were looking at me like I sabotaged the entire team."
A day later, Tyler was suspended from the team due to lack of effort over the 4x400. However, she did not find out until she attended track practice that next day.
That afternoon, at 2:00 p.m., Radford sent an email to her mother explaining the decision handed down to Tyler. MileSplit obtained the email as well:
From: Radford, Breanna *redacted*
Date: Mon, Apr 17, 2023 at 2:00 PM
Subject: Tyler Lowe- Hooch Track
Mr. and Mrs. Lowe,
Tyler's purposeful lack of effort during her leg of the 4x400 relay at McEachern was not becoming of a Chattahoochee athlete. She let down her relay team as well as the Girls Track & Field team and chose not to represent our program and our school to our expectations. Therefore, Tyler will be suspended from the next scheduled meet. Unfortunately, our next scheduled meet is Region, so Tyler will not be entered in the Region meet and her competitive season is now over. We hope that Tyler can learn from this and reflect on what is means to be a member of a team. If you have any questions about this or about the 2024 Chattahoochee Track & Field season, we will be happy to address those during our scheduled meeting this Wednesday.
Breanna Radford and CHS Track and Field Coaches
Chattahoochee High School Science
Girls Track and Field Head Coach
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"Tyler's purposeful lack of effort during her leg of the 4x400 relay at McEachern was not becoming of a Chattahoochee athlete. She let down her relay team as well as the Girls Track & Field team and choose not to represent our program and our school to our expectations."
A year earlier, Chattahoochee had won the GHSA Class 6A state title in the 4x400, with Lowe a vital member on the team that ran 3:48.94.
Radford ended the memo by writing: "We hope that Tyler can learn from this and reflect on what is (sic) means to be a member of a team. If you have any questions about this or about the 2024 Chattahoochee Track & Field seasons, we will be happy (sic)"
Tyler, however, did not get the memo. She showed up to practice shortly thereafter, less than an hour after the email was sent to her parents. When she appeared on the track, a series of coaches confronted her and told her to leave the field.
Vanessa, who was driving to the school after receiving the email, got there as it was happening, she said, and walked down to the track. A discussion took place before coaches asked Vanessa to leave the field as well. Then her husband, David, also appeared, but he left shortly thereafter, too, wanting to avoid any potential conflict.
"It kept getting worse and worse," David said.
Vanessa said she was concerned for her daughter.
"She was ambushed," Vanessa said of her daughter reporting to practice and then being told to leave. "It was embarrassing."
When the family next went to administration, asking for an explanation as to why their daughter's season was over after one performance, they met with Chattahoochee athletic director, Chris Short. The school's principal, Mike Todd, was not there, but Vanessa said he supported the coaches decision.
Vanessa sent an email to Todd, asking why her daughter was being punished beyond reason.
"Not only do we feel that the original infraction was unfounded and the related consequence excessive, but the subsequent decisions and actions of the coaching staff and AD with your sign-off are inconsistent with the consequence that was originally communicated."
She continued: "We affirm that our daughter has been unfairly targeted by the coaching staff, and this mistreatment, by admission of the Athletic Director is in response to a combination of us voicing our parental concerns to the coaching staff and what was perceived as Tyler's "purposeful lack of effort". This is retaliatory and irresponsible. We have documented instances of bullying and discriminatory practices aimed at our daughter by the coaching staff, and we will not stand by and allow this mistreatment to continue."
From: Lo Fam *redacted*
Date: Thu, Apr 20, 2023 at 2:43 PM
Subject: Notice of escalation- Regarding Tyler Lowe
We wanted to express our disappointment that you were not able to attend the meeting on Wednesday with Chris Short and the Chattahoochee track and field coaching staff. Unfortunately, the meeting was not productive and our concerns remain unresolved. Given the seriousness and urgency of the situation, our next recourse will be to escalate this matter further to the next level.
Not only do we feel that the original infraction was unfounded and the related consequence excessive, but the subsequent decisions and actions of the coaching staff and AD with your sign-off are inconsistent with the consequence that was originally communicated. In fact, the measures taken against Tyler continues to morph into what appears to be a limitless selection of punitive actions. It has gone from "Tyler will be held out of the next meet." to four male coaches abruptly kicking Tyler out of practice, to the coaches' teetering on whether or not Tyler should be entered into another meet which follows the "next" meet (Wingfoot Meet of Champions). This is unjustified and unacceptable.
We affirm that our daughter has been unfairly targeted by the coaching staff, and this mistreatment, by admission of the Athletic Director is in response to a combination of us voicing our parental concerns to the coaching staff and what was perceived as Tyler's "purposeful lack of effort". This is retaliatory and irresponsible. We have documented instances of bullying and discriminatory practices aimed at our daughter by the coaching staff, and we will not stand by and allow this mistreatment to continue.
David and Vanessa Lowe
As the season went on, the family spent the next few days and weeks trying to figure out what exactly to make of the situation.
They said they had driven Tyler late to practice one morning her freshman season at 6 a.m., ruffling some feathers. The response from the coaches in that instance, David said, was to put Tyler on jayvee for a meet.
"That was petty," David said.
Was it a difference of opinions? Both Vanessa and David hold USATF Level 1 coaching certificates and are involved in the track and field community as coaches of ATL Zoom, a nationally-recognized program run by former NFL player Allen Rossum, though neither were coaches of their daughter's high school.
Both parents told MileSplit they have, over the years, respected the decisions made by the coaching staff. But they said the coaching staff has been against balanced two-way conversation.
After all, they said, Tyler did run the three events asked of her at McEachern.
Was Tyler too ambitious? She competes for ATL Zoom, while the family has allowed Lowe to compete in meets across the U.S., including a recent national invitational in New York City in March, where she finished fifth in a 400m field. She had also competed at invitationals in Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas over 2023.
A year prior, Tyler had traveled to Philadelphia to compete at New Balance Nationals Outdoor.
But David said he doesn't buy the division between the track club and high school. "I would say," he said, "that could not be all of it.
"The particular coaches, they've taken issue with us over meaningless, petty things."
One time recently, David said, he went to talk to Morris about entering Tyler in an 800m, an event she had run well in as recently as 2021, with a time of 2:16. He asked Morris about the opportunity. "Knowing Tyler," David said.
Morris stopped him.
"I don't even know Tyler," he reportedly said.
"I said, 'You don't know her? She's been running under your program for three years,'" David recalls saying.
"I know of her but I don't know her," Morris reportedly said.
The matter ultimately did not sort itself out before the regional championships. Lowe, a potential state championship contender, did not perform and therefore her regular season in Georgia -- and her chance to win a state title -- was finished.
To put more gasoline on the fire, though, a coach from the University of Wisconsin's track and field program had gone to the regional meet just to see Lowe run. He eventually made his way to Morris and spoke with the head coach about the athlete.
The family moved on.
Tyler posted on Instagram on April 27, two days after regions:
"Some of you may be wondering about my absence at Regions this week. I am not injured. I am not ineligible nor am I restricted for disciplinary reasons."
She went on to explain how she was told to run three events during her last meet, that she did, and then was told "it was not up to their expectations." After showing up to practice the next day, "they demanded I left (sic) the track. They said my season is over."
Vanessa said her daughter has been faced with the kind of adversity not often pressed upon young athletes, but that she's dealt with it all, despite not having a high school season to run for anymore.
Then again, there are meets still ahead. Just this past week, the family drove to Landover, Maryland, where Tyler competed at the Puma presents the East Coast Showcase.
Lowe showed significant resolve for an athlete going through hardship. She ran two new personal bests, clocking times of 23.56 in the 200m and 53.39 seconds in the 400m.
Her season should continue beyond this week, too, with possible inclusions at the Wingfoot Meet of Champions and other national invitationals.
But as far as whether she will compete for Chattahoochee High School in 2024, the family is not as close to a decision on that. This last month has forced them to reevaluate whether the school is a good place for their daughter.
Noes, the Fulton County Schools communications officer, released a statement on behalf of the district to MileSplit on Tuesday.
"Chattahoochee High School believes sportsmanship is as critical to the overall success of our athletic programs as athletic performance. All athletes are expected to follow the code of conduct as outlined in the Fulton County Schools Athlete/Parent Athletic Handbook. Coaches oversee the adherence of behavior related to the handbook. Student-athletes whose actions do not meet the standards of sportsmanship can expect to receive appropriate consequences."
Vanessa and David said they are now exploring options for their daughter.
"We're considering moving to a different location, or possibly going to a private school or we could even bypass her final year of high school and just run club," David said.
He added: "There's one option we do know. There's no way she can run for that school again."
When reflecting on the last month, Tyler was upset by what took place.
She said her teammates have turned on her. "Now my relationship with my teammates is broken," she said.
Amid all the turmoil, there could have been one thing to focus on, a token that could have made it all worth it. Her track exploits. Running fast. Competing. A state title.
But the coaches' punishment was severe. It was season-ending.
On losing the opportunity, Lowe said, "I felt I was missing out on something. I felt used after the fact. Nobody had anything to say to me. After I wasn't a part of it, I was left behind and devastated for missing out on states."
Vanessa said she believes the entire staff at Chattahoochee agreed on the decision to dismiss her daughter from the team. Even now, nearly a month since the decision, the entire family is still upset with the situation.
"They tossed her out like she didn't matter," Vanessa said. "That pisses me off."
Chattahoochee athletic director Chris Short did not answer multiple calls made to him.
"I felt I was missing out on something. I felt used after the fact. Nobody had anything to say to me. After I wasn't a part of it, I was left behind and devastated for missing out on states."
MileSplit's Breaking News -- a series of past stories