Newton North alum Alex Sherman heads to Olympic Trials

PHOTO: Newton North alum Alex Sherman, shown here running the 400m hurdles race at the 2023 Virginia Challenge in Charlottesville, VA, for the University of Virginia, is heading to Olympics Trials. Courtesy Photo

Alex Sherman, Newton resident and 2021 Newton North graduate, is heading to the U.S. Olympic Trials this week.

This May, he helped the University of Virginia win the outright ACC Outdoor Men’s Track & Field Championship for the first time. He scored second in the 400 meter hurdles, at a time of 50.53 seconds, which puts him in the top 25 track athletes in the country.

Sherman also holds the record for fastest 300m time at Newton North.

Getting to the Olympic trials isn’t easy. The Newton Beacon asked Alex, his Newton North track coach Shawn Wallace, and Alex’s father Adam Sherman what advice they’d give to current students and families about a post-high school athletic career.

“You have to set goals for yourself,” Sherman said. “Whether that’s time goals, or nutrition and sleep, there’s a lot that goes into being a great athlete. You have to really be intentional in what you’re doing, and in high school, it can be tough when you’re surrounded by people with different goals.”

Ultimately, success comes down to putting in a lot of effort. “You need to be coming to practice with the goal of working harder than everyone else,” he said.

“His motivation and dedication to the team and to being a better runner is something I’ve seen in very few people,” said Shawn Wallace, Sherman’s track coach at Newton North.

“All that success is his motivation and his drive to be the best he can be. I am a huge proponent of motivation. I’m always there to help any student, regardless of their ability level. What I want to see is that you have the motivation to get better. When you have a group of people who all have that motivation to get better, you as a coach can sit back and see them push each other.”

Sherman has always been athletic, but he didn’t start out in track: he started out in baseball and played his freshman year at Newton North. He was good at it, but he wanted a change.

“I’d been playing baseball my whole life, and I was a little burned out by that point, and track was new and exciting,” said Sherman. “The team really brought me in. It was like being a big family. It’s easy to fall in love with the sport when you’re surrounded by great people.”

Wallace said he’s had other students switch from various sports to track.

“It has to be a decision you make,” he said. “I can’t tell you to do that.”

Wallace said the track season has ups and downs, and if it’s a down point, someone who wasn’t fully committed to the decision to switch will find it harder to be motivated to improve.

Wallace remembers Sherman being nervous to talk to his parents about wanting to switch from baseball.

Wallace said it all comes back to the motivation. “Trust your kid,” he said. “As a parent, you really want your kid to be passionate about something. Push them to do what they want to do, not what you want them to do. If they’re not the one who made the decision, they’re not going to excel.”

Adam Sherman, Alex’s father, said he was surprised when his son said he wanted to switch to a new sport, since he’d always played baseball, but he and his wife were supportive when they saw how dedicated their son was to it.

“I will say it’s been an amazing journey to watch Alex grow and achieve success in something that he’s so passionate about,” Adam Sherman said.

Getting into a college program for track isn’t like football or basketball, Wallace noted.

“I always have the kids kind of recruit themselves,” said Wallace.

Because there are so many high school track athletes, it can be hard for a student to get on a college coach’s radar. Wallace encourages students to reach out to coaches at schools they want to go to, whether it be a Division-3 school like Brandeis or a Division-1 school like the University of Virginia, and the coach can tell them what times they’re looking for in potential team members.

“If they say no, that’s motivation to go ‘Coach, you passed on me, and you made a big mistake’,” Wallace said.

The Newton North track team has about 130 students, and around 10 every year go on to a college track team.