Alex Groesch has fleet feet and nimble fingers. A sprinter for the St. Louis University High track and field team, Groesch is an accomplished cellist. He somehow finds the time to balance his athletic, musical and academic endeavors while performing at a high level in each (he’s carrying a 4.1 grade point average). “I stay up super late,” Groesch, 17, says. “I stay up as late as it takes.”
On the track he gives the competition night terrors. Last Thursday at the Metro Catholic Conference meet at Chaminade, Groesch ran away with top honors in the 400-meter race and anchored SLUH’s victorious 1,600 relay. He also was second in the 200, edging out De Smet speedster Durron Neal in the process.
Neal walked away from the finish line shaking his head and praising Groesch. Neal is a physical specimen who could have been chiseled out of granite. But, next to Groesch, he ran like he had feet of clay. Groesch is 6-feet and 139-pounds of lightning. He began running track as an elementary school student. His speed showed at an early age, and he’s always been a sprinter. For SLUH, he has run the 200, 400, 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400.
Groesch enjoys the 400 (which one lap around the track), because more than the shorter sprints, it requires strategy and mental toughness. “I like the 400, it seems like more of a mental race,” he says. “In the 200, you’re going at full speed the whole time.”
In the 400, you have to wait until you open the throttle or you’ll run out of gas before you hit the finish line. Groesch displayed that savvy when he passed De Smet’s anchor leg during the last 20 meters of the 4x400 at the MCC meet. He paced himself, and when they came around the final curve, Groesch opened it up with impressive results. “It boggles my mind what he can do,” SLUH coach Joe Porter says. “He’s a tough kid.”
You want tough? In the fall, he runs with the cross country team, pumping out 5K races. He does it because he loves it, but it’s also good cross training for sprinting. The longer distances of cross country improve Groesch’s stamina. Track helps him in cross country, too. When he’s coming to the end of the race, his speed training from track gives him a boost to kick past his competitors.
Groesch also is the beneficiary of textbook form. In the sprint races, tenths of a second are the difference between making it to state and going home. Groesch knows this first hand after finishing fifth at the district meet and missing the cut by, literally, half a heartbeat (only the top four finishers advance from district and sectionals). The better your form, the faster you’ll finish. “I don’t know what proper form is,” Groesch says with a chuckle. “I just do what comes naturally.”
It would appear music is as natural to Groesch as breathing. His cello talents earned him the fifth chair in the National High School Honors Orchestra in Atlanta this spring. He picked up a bow when he was 6 years old and has only grown to love it more with each passing year. Groesch is part of the St. Louis Junior Symphony, which practices in Powell Hall. He also participates in Webster University’s College Prep Program. Just last Sunday, he played two concerts—one in the morning and one in the evening.
Groesch has to sacrifice practices for both track and cello at one time or another. Everyone involved, however, has been quite accommodating as he balances his talents. “I’m really lucky,” Groesch says.