By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Nathanual Lucero is a relative newcomer to both McAlester and track. Born in Dalhart, Texas, Lucero lived in Clovis, N.M., Piney Creek and Canadian before transferring to McAlester High School for his sophomore year.
When he got to MHS, Lucero befriended several people with previous track experience and they convinced him to try it. Injuries curtailed his first two seasons, but so far this season he’s stayed healthy and eager to make his senior season his best.
“My major goal this year is to go to State,” Lucero said Wednesday.
Lucero said he primarily competes in four events: the 200 meter dash; 400 meter dash; the 4x400 meter relay; and the 4x800 meter relay. He anchors a 4x800 relay team, making that event his favorite.
“I love having the pressure,” Lucero said. “I think pressure-wise, it pushes me to do my best as I can.”
The 4x800, or two mile, relay starts with Samuel Adams, then goes to Zach Godwin and Colin Smith before Lucero finishes. The team almost broke its goal of a nine-minute race at the Clark Bass Invitational meet in McAlester on April 17, finishing in 9:01.
“From the week we went to Henryetta two weeks ago to last week, we took 50 seconds off our two-mile relay,” Lucero said.
“You pace yourself, but not only do you pace yourself, you have to have good stamina and good speed.”
Sports like track and swimming don’t always promote the same sense of teamwork and camaraderie that sports like football and basketball might. Most races feature a different team’s representative in each lane, and runners often say they feel by themselves while competing.
Even though relay runners only run together for as long as it takes to hand off the baton, it’s still far more team-like. And even if Lucero and his fellow Buffaloes might compete as individuals, he said McAlester’s track team stands out for how much the athletes support each other.
“Over underneath (our) tent, they’re watching, screaming from the tent, yelling, making us to go, pushing us,” Lucero said. “They’re cheering all of us on; it doesn’t matter who it is. It could be a distance runner, and the sprinters will yell.”
Lucero had played football and basketball earlier in his childhood, but by his senior year he had given up football and hung up his basketball jersey to instead act as manager. No school he attended prior to McAlester offered track, he said, which might’ve put him at a disadvantage compared to other McAlester runners who started in junior high or earlier.
“Track team is more of a mental thing,” Lucero said. “If you believe you can do it and you constantly keep at it, you’ll eventually make it.”
The Buffs have just two track meets left this season before Regionals: Coweta today and Wagoner on May 2. Once the season ends, Lucero said he plans to join the National Guard in July, then hopefully help coach at McAlester next spring once he returns from basic training.
“To me, our whole government is crooked, but to a point we have more freedom than any other country, so I think it’s still my duty to serve,” Lucero said.
“They go overseas, but they’re not like how the Reserve and the Army active (duty) is. They don’t go exactly as soon as war starts. When a devastation on homefront, meaning our territory, goes on, that’s when we’re mainly called.”
After the end of the 2015 track season, Lucero said he plans to move to Dalhart to spend time with his grandmother. He also plans to enroll at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, a town near Amarillo, and major in math.
Lucero said he’d like to someday become a track or football coach, possibly even at MHS.
When he’s not at practice, Lucero said car repair is his biggest hobby.
“It’s a genetic thing,” Lucero said. “My grandpa on my dad’s side, he knew his way around a (Chevrolet) engine or around any engine. He mainly worked on Chevy because it was always easier to work on. And then my dad, he’s good working around engines as well. I guess I kind of picked up on it from them.”
When someone moves as often as Lucero has, it can be hard to feel like any one place is home.
In joining McAlester’s track team, Lucero found the anchor he needed to finally feel settled.
Matt Goisman at email@example.com.