If Alex Manwaring were just an athlete, he would still be the one of the most notable students at Ledyard High School.
He’s ticketed for an All-State football selection as a running back after surpassing 1,000 rushing yards in his first five games and setting the Colonels’ single-game rushing mark with 318. He also finished fifth in State Open wrestling and was second in lacrosse scoring last spring in his first season in that sport.
If he were a student who didn’t play sports, Manwaring would be equally outstanding as a National Honor Society and honor roll member and Student Congress president.
If he were neither a good athlete nor a good student, his personality, sense of selflessness and spirit would make him a valuable asset to school and community.
Squeeze his athletics, academics and school spirit into one person, and you have a one-of-a-kind student who has become a star in every sense at Ledyard High School – Alex Manwaring.
"I don't limit myself to one thing," he said. "I love being well-rounded. I don't want to be only known as a jock."
A vocational agricultural student who lives in East Lyme, you wonder how Manwaring finds time in addition to his sports to devote to student activities. Yet he is president of the LHS Student Congress, was co-chair of Spirit Week as a junior and this year he joined the school chorus. You can often see Manwaring rooting on classmates at other sporting events, and he also volunteers as a coach in the East Lyme youth football league.
"He has been a great representative, not only for football in general but our overall school and community," football coach Jim Buonocore said. "He excels academically, athletically, as well as socially. He has a vibrant personality and is mature beyond his years."
On the football field, Manwaring has already set records in his senior season. He gained a LHS single-game mark of 318 yards last Saturday against Bacon Academy. And he surpassed 1,000 season yards in the quickest time (5 games).
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder rushed for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. He's on track for perhaps 2,000 yards this season, putting him in line to set the career rushing mark in Ledyard's storied football history.
"Alex is having a tremendous season to date," Buonocore said. "He has become our workhorse in terms of offensive production. His lower body strength, vision, and quickness has allowed him to have a great beginning."
There are faster backs and certainly bigger backs that have posted big numbers in Eastern Connecticut Conference history. But none have extracted every ounce of production out of their ability as much as Manwaring with his signature style of leg-churning, shoulder-driving, choppy-stepping and quick-cutting runs.
"I try to squeeze as much out of my 5-foot-8 frame," Manwaring said. "I'm not 6-3, 250-pounds like (East Lyme's) Chad Berry. I try to leave everything on the field."
Manwaring embodies the same intensity and desire "leaving it all on the mat" in wrestling, where he won at ECC Championship at 145 pounds as a sophomore and finished second in the Class M state tournament last year. And in his first year of lacrosse last spring, Manwaring finished second in scoring for Ledyard.
His seasoned approach to football gives him an additional edge. Buonocore revels in Manwaring's film preparation. This season, Manwaring has employed stretching and agility techniques he learned from off-season training at Yuhas Performance Training Center in Old Lyme to help prevent injuries and recover from beatings he has taken from his 144 carries to date.
"Tim Yuhas and I have focused on injury prevention by doing icing and extra stretching after practice and games," Manwaring said. "His drills have helped my flexibility. Off-season training is not all about bench-pressing and doing squat lifts any more."
Manwaring turned his ankle early last year in Game 7 against Bacon Academy and was severely limited in Ledyard's last three games. His 318-yard effort against Bacon, a school that was also a wrestling nemesis for him, was sweet vindication.
Though he has produced 80 percent of the offense for the 4-1 Colonels, Manwaring is quick to credit others, specifically the offensive line complete with juniors: tackles Bob Bozym and Kyle Wilson, guards Ben Morales and Alec Gabriel, tight end Dallas Smith and center Evan Stockmon.
Manwaring burst out of the box with 30 carries for 276 yards and 39 for 275 in Ledyard's first two games. After powerhouse New London limited him to 51 yards and a receiving TD in the Colonels' only loss, Manwaring came back with 25 for 163 against Stonington before the record against Bacon.
"It's team first," Manwaring said. "First and foremost, I just want to win. Gaining 2,000 would be nice but if I finish with 1,200 yards and we win the state title, I'd be thrilled with that. I only have five more high school games, possibly seven or eight if we make the playoffs. We work so hard to play one time a week. I don't want to let a moment slip by."
Manwaring hopes this season won't be the end of his football career. While his size and speed are not hot commodities on college recruiters' wish lists, his production, character and leadership have attracted interest from small college football programs with highly competitive academics.
"Trinity College, Oberlin (Ohio), Worcestor Polytechnical Institute are high on my list," Manwaring said. "I've sent films to a bunch of schools and a lot of coaches have been great with their responses."
The Colonels host ECC rival Montville tonight at 6:30 at Mignault Field.