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We wanted to take this moment to show our respects for former Fitchburg High School and UMass Lowell track star Toni Onikeku, who passed away the other day after drowning in the Deerfield River. Just an unspeakable tragedy and a huge loss for both the Fitchburg and UMass Lowell communities. I’ve seen this kid high jump before, and it’s special. It was impossible to miss him because of the fluorescent green spandex. That and the fact that he could high jump 6’9″ as a 16 year old. Going into what would have been his senior season at UMass Lowell, he was clearing 6′ 10.5″ and was closing in on the 7′ foot barrier, which is basically the equivalent of the 4 minute mile for jumpers.
But he was more than just an amazing athlete. He was a leader in the community, a great student, and someone who was destined to change our society for the better. As a political science major he carried a 3.15 GPA, and was a popular leader for younger athletes on the UMass Lowell’s prestigious track team.
According to the Telegram, Onikeku, who recently had been elected treasurer of UMass-Lowell’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for a second year, was active in Bowling for Impact and Ugly Sweater fundraising events, and also was one of two UMass-Lowell representatives of the American East Conference’s student-athlete advisory committee.
No family wants to bury their son, but any help they could get would be beneficial. The UMass Lowell track team has set up a fund to help the family offset the costs of a funeral, which can be extremely expensive. They are about half way to their goal. Let’s see if Turtleboy Nation can help put them over the top. Here is the link to the GuFundMe page. It’s important that we help our fellow man in a time of need. God bless the Toni’s family, the community of Fitchburg, and the UMass Lowell track team in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.