DUNLAP — A big change is soon coming for Concord High School athlete Luke Owings.
In the spring of 2020, Owings is getting a haircut.
Owings, who can be recognized by his flowing long blonde hair, will have to adjust to that new look.
"Just before my freshman year (of high school) was the last time I had a haircut," said the 17-year old senior.
Why the drastic decision?
Because Owings won't be following many of his classmates and going to college to pursue an education.
Instead, he'll be joining the Marine Corps.
Owings will be shipping out to boot camp to San Diego, California on June 8th, 2020.
"I'm not sure I'll be able to enjoy the weather like other people do," Owings said.
Joining the Marines wasn't a decision Owings, who will be a runner and swimmer this year for the Minutemen, made overnight.
It just felt right and satisfied his needs after high school.
"Even when I was little I knew that this was what I was going to do," Owings said. "You're constantly challenging yourself when it comes to the nature of running. The military is the ultimate challenge. The Marines are there for a reason. That's why I wasn't interested in going to college. I just want to make the most out of myself. I think intangibles are more valuable to have. My feeling going into the Marines is that it's more challenging and rewarding. An ideology and aura surrounds the Marines. That's what everyone thinks of the Marines and that makes it a positive experience.
"I've gotten letters from colleges and for a brief period during my sophomore year I fumbled with the idea of going to college. After that I made up my mind what I wanted to do and that was join the Marines."
Owings' decision has gotten a mixed reaction from family, friends, teammates and coaches.
"I get a lot of why," Owings said. "There's a lot of people that think I can do something more. I'm making something more of myself. It's a subjective thing.
"My uncle was a green beret and he discouraged me of making this decision. That didn't stop me from doing this. He's a different person than I am and I kept that in mind. Teammates and friends think it's exactly the right decision for me. (Cross country) coach (Matt Nicoson) would rather see me go to college and follow that up with a running career."
There's plenty of reason for Nicoson to believe in Owings' running ability and being able to compete at the college level.
Last year during the cross country season, Owings finished third at the sectional (16:56.98) and seventh at the regional (16:38.38).
He followed that up with strong showings during the track season. At the sectional, Owings placed fifth in the 3,200 meters (10:03.96) and was part of a second place 3,200-meter relay team (8:18.70). In regional competition, he finished 11th in the 3,200 meters (10:20.33) and his 3,200-meter relay team ended up fifth with a time of 8:30.51.
"Cross country is my favorite sport by a lot," Owings said. "There's more of a focus around it and it's a lot more team oriented and everyone is doing one thing. With track, everybody is running different things and it's a big, tedious sport."
For the first time this year, Owings is going to compete for the swim team.
"I'm not trying to win a trophy," Owings said about swimming at Concord. "I'm just doing it for conditioning."
Owings was focused on his conditioning during the summer, as he spent hours daily getting in shape for the Marines.
"I've been working on my upper body strength and putting on weight," Owings said. "I've also progressed with my push-ups and sit-ups."
Will his work to get ready for Marine service help Owings as an athlete this year?
"Honestly, I don't think it's going to help me," Owings said. "I did less running because of the conditioning work I did. I expect that I'm not going to perform as well. But you have to sacrifice for what's more important later."
Did Owings think about giving up sports for his senior year?
"No," he said emphatically. "That's the nature of the struggle."
When he joins the Marines, Owings will be in active duty for four years. What follows is four years of reserve duty.
"You just check in every so often when you're in the reserves," Owings said. "Reserve life is civilian life. If we go to war while I'm in the reserves I'll be in active duty again until the war is over."
Owings admits to having fear of what my lie ahead in his future.
But that doesn't make him regret his decision to join the Marines.
"It's out of my control and has been faced by people before," Owings said.
"To some degree you have to be driven by patriotism. There's no other country I'd want to live in."