LAWRENCE — As a child, growing up in the Dominican Republic, the speed and determination that would one day make Lawrence’s Alex Suarez a star in track were not born through sports or training.
Instead, they were groomed through hard work, long days and necessity.
“I would spend my time running up and down the streets doing errands for my family,” said Suarez. “I’d also walk miles to deliver food to the workers. I had no idea I was naturally fast back then.”
It was not until Suarez arrived in Lawrence and, after some encouragement from friends, went out for the middle school track team did he discover the sport that became a passion.
The Lawrence High senior is now a standout for the Lancers squad that finished the dual meet season undefeated on the way to the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 title.
A Worcester State track recruit, Suarez currently sits No. 5 in The Eagle-Tribune area in the long jump (21-4) and seventh in the triple jump (41-0).
He’s run a 62.2 in the 400 hurdles and a 54.46 in the open 400. That after a winter when he set the Lawrence High school record in the 55 hurdles (7.96) at the MVC Meet.
Suarez will next lead the Lancers into the MVC Championship on Saturday (noon) at Chelmsford High.
“I love the competition,” he said. “Sure, it’s fun to win or place. But for me it’s about pushing myself to do better and see that time or distance improve. And when you’re going against the best competition, you compete at your best.”
Suarez is also looking forward to June 3, when he will look to lead Lawrence to its second straight North Decathlon title. Last spring, he helped the Lancers edge Central Catholic, placing a team-best sixth as an individual.
“Alex has set a standard for our program,” said coach Bill Meuse. “He’s been a leader of our team since freshman year. His work ethic is what separates him from the rest. There is never any doubt that, no matter what event we put him in, he will compete and score points.”
FROM DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TO LAWRENCE
As a youngster in the Dominican Republic, Suarez’s racing experience was limited primarily to family members.
“My cousins and I would play tag all the time,” he said. “We would race a lot to see who was faster.”
At 9-years-old, Suarez and his family moved from the Dominican to America, and settled in Lawrence.
“It was a family decision,” said Suarez. “I’m not sure why. I just knew we had to get on a plane and come over to America to start a new life. As a kid, I just knew it was something different.
“I didn’t speak English when I arrived here. It took me about two years to learn the language. I did it by being around people and watching how they spoke. By about the third year, I had a grasp on the language.”
BECOMING A TRACK STAR
After years of trying different sports, friends persuaded Suarez to try track in middle school. And, from the start, he was sold.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to try track,” he said. “But I loved it from the moment I started. I was fast, and I had some success in the first few practices. After that, I wanted that feeling more, so I dedicated myself to track.”
He then set out to find what events were right for him.
“It was trial and error,” he said. “I tried distance events, but it wasn’t for me. It was too hard on my lungs. Then a coach saw me in the hurdles and thought I looked good. He said, ‘That’s what you’re doing from now on!’ There was no getting out of it after that.
“We had to try a field event, so I decided to try jumping. That took time, learning the form and building the strength to be successful. But, by the end of sophomore year, I started to have success.”
Last spring, Suarez was third at MVCs in the 110 hurdles (15.55) and fourth in the long jump (21-5).
But his best day was at the North Decathlon. In his first time competing, he scored a 5,413, second best in the area last spring to then-Central standout Greg Desrosiers (5,914).
“I love competing against different athletes in so many different events,” said Suarez. “My favorite are the jumps and dash. My least favorite is the 1,500 meters. But I love the competition.”
He now hopes to lead Lawrence to another title this spring, and plans to compete in the decathlon when he arrives at Worcester State. And his coach has full confidence in his standout.
“Alex’s ability to compete in multiple events is what makes him special,” said Meuse. “He has a goal of competing at a high level in college, and I have no doubt he will be successful.”
The unlikely goalie
Lawrence senior track standout Alex Suarez found himself in a surprise situation in the fall — starting varsity soccer goalie.
“I had never played goalie in my life,” said Suarez. “I played soccer as a freshman, then didn’t play the next two years. In the fall, I decided to play soccer or football for the training. I chose soccer because it was safer.
“I was one of the taller guys (just 5-foot-7) so the coach made me starting goalie. It was quite an experience. It was frustrating, because I made a lot of mistakes. But I got better little by little. It made me a stronger person, and I’ve taken that mindset into track.”
Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.