|Vanessa Clerveaux clears a hurdle on her way to winning the Division 1 girls 100-meter hurdles in Andover this past May. (Winslow Townson for the boston Globe)|
Track star still leading
Brockton’s Clerveaux staying the course in her senior year
Vanessa Clerveaux stood on the observation deck of the GE Building at Rockefeller Center last March, taking in the views of New York City as a reward for her hard work.
Earlier in the day, Clerveaux, along with her teammates on the indoor track team at Brockton High had competed in the New Balance Indoor Nationals in Harlem, where they ran in the 55-meter hurdles and the 4x200 relay.
“I don’t want to sound cliché, but the trip really changed my life forever,’’ said the 17-year-old Clerveaux.
“I love track. I’m not doing it just because I’m fast. I really do love track.
“To travel to New York with three girls I’ve worked so hard with throughout the season was the experience of a lifetime. You’re not going to forget that.’’
Entering her senior season, Clerveaux is determined to come out on top again. Last season, she captured the 55-meter hurdles at the all-state meet, the New England championship, and the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association (MSTCA) indoor meet.
The Boxers’ 4x200 relay squad also won titles at the all-state meet, as well as the New Englands with a time of 1:45.4.
“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,’’ said the 5-foot-8 Clerveaux. “I’m into not wasting time, so every meet this year I’m going to give it my all. It’s my senior year.
“I look forward to running my hardest every single meet and try to be undefeated again.’’
She started running competitively in the fourth grade, for the Edgar B. Davis K-8 School, and has participated in citywide track events since.
“The eighth grade meet was when I realized I wanted to get better at track and field and continue in high school,’’ she said. “I came in second in the meet. I lost by one point. That was the first of many examples: I realized every point matters and every meter matters. I really took that into consideration when I started high school.’’
Watching the 2008 Summer Olympic Games from Beijing fueled her desire to start competing in the hurdles.
“I saw the hurdlers and I thought it was amazing to do an event when you’re sprinting and jumping at the same time,’’ she said.
“So when I got to school, I wanted to try it. I wanted to be fast and I wanted to be known for being fast over hurdles.
“I didn’t like it at first. I was falling and I was upset. But because I was falling and wasn’t getting it, I wanted to keep doing it.’’
Taking note of Clerveaux’s skills and attitude, Brockton coach Charles Russell said she is the best athlete on a roster of 50-plus girls.
“She gets along with everyone,’’ said Russell. “She’s not a prima donna. She is a superstar, the best track athlete at the high school right now, boys and girls combined, and she has been for the past couple years. Just think of the ego she could possibly have. There is not that problem at all.
“It brings everyone with her. It pulls everyone along. People elevate and go right with her, which is great.’’
Cydney Franks, a sophomore who also runs a leg on the 4x200 relay squad, said that Clerveaux sets the bar high.
“I look up to her,’’ she said. “She’s amazing. I’m really looking forward to running with her.’’
Senior Milan Neville calls Clerveaux a motivator. “She always pushes us to do better,’’ said Neville, also a member of the relay team. “Even when we’ve reached the top, she always makes us want to do more. She believes in us.
“She never puts anyone down. She’s always there boosting us up. If you do something wrong, she helps you and corrects it, she doesn’t yell.’’
Russell said the positive reinforcement sets the tone.
“She is verbal and vocal, but she is very positive, which is good. She doesn’t say anything she’s not going to do,’’ Russell said. “She’s always been a leader even as an underclassman. She leads by example. She’s always in the mix of making decisions.’’
Neville said Clerveaux is such a blur clearing the hurdles that it is difficult keeping up with her on tape. “I almost didn’t see it happen when I was recording her on the camera,’’ she said. “I had to find her. She’s always a couple hurdles in front of people. She’s extremely fast.’’
Clerveaux can run the 55 hurdles in 8.13 seconds, faster than most run the 55-meter dash.
“She can do anything she puts her mind to. She could do distance if she wanted to, but with the hurdles, she dominates it,’’ added Neville.
One hurdle Clerveaux and her teammates will not face this season is the lack of their own facility outdoors. The refurbishment of Marciano Stadium this fall included a state-of-the-art track surface.
Clerveaux is excited that she will be able to practice on the surface this winter, weather permitting, and compete on it in next spring’s outdoor season.
“We’ve had a lot of minor injuries with the hard surface in the past like shin splints,’’ she said. “That didn’t stop most of us. You use what you have. We still love it.’’
In the interim, the Boxers competed at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, never getting a meet in Brockton.
“A lot of people wanted to see me hurdle and the track team run,’’ said Clerveaux, who plans to run for a Division 1 program next year while majoring in pre-dental.
“I appreciate the track is done all nice for my senior year. Now people can see us run. I love track because it’s a team and an individual sport. You have to work hard personally, and collectively as a team.’’
Colleen Casey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.