LAWRENCE — To Aneisha Berrios, the moment seems like just yesterday, yet at the same time a lifetime ago, the day a seemingly average Lawrence city middle school track meet turned out to be one of the defining moments of her young life.
“I was always afraid to try sports because I thought people would judge me and laugh at me for being overweight,” she said. “But in my first track meet in middle school I took first in the shot put. The fact that I actually won something was unbelievable. Finally, I had a victory I could call my own.”
Now a senior at Lawrence High, Berrios is the energetic and engaging captain and star thrower for the Lancers. She will look to defend her Merrimack Valley Conference discus title on Saturday at Andover High. Next year she will be competing for UMass Lowell.
But for Berrios, the greatest gift that track has given her could never be quantified by trophies, plaques or medals. It is a gift that she dreamed of growing up, and that she is now thankful every day that she found.
Starting with that middle school meet, after many years of insecurity, Berrios began to feel comfortable in her own skin.
“She really is so much more confident now,” said her mother, Nadia Berrios. “She doesn’t doubt herself the way she used to. And it wasn’t until she found track that she really started to open up. I think it really helped her. She’s a firecracker now.”
Not long ago, the thought of becoming a track star seemed impossible to Berrios.
“I never played sports growing up because I was often made fun of because of my weight and my lack of abilities,” she said. “Anytime I was in gym class and we had to do a sport that involved running I would pull out some kind of excuse so I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t want people looking at me and laughing.”