BOYERTOWN — Ever since her freshman season, Alex Heuer was quietly chasing a dream. She never talked about it to anybody until recently. But it remained hidden in the back of her mind and helped inspire the Boyertown track and field standout throughout all her high school years.
Heuer closed out her Bears career with an outstanding senior year, capturing Pioneer Athletic Conference, District 1-AAA Championship and PIAA-AAA Championship medals galore in four different events — the triple jump, the 100 and 300 hurdles and the 4x400 relay.
All added up, it made her the area's most successful female track athlete this season.
And the Delaware-bound Heuer is the 2014 Mercury All-Area Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"I'm very honored and very blessed to win this,' Heuer said. "It was actually a goal of mine since freshman year when I thought, ' Oh, it would be so awesome to win that when I'm a senior.' And I always wanted to, always dreamed about it. I knew I had to battle against some top seniors like Jill Weston and Holly Sullivan (both Owen J. Roberts), knew it wasn't going to be easy. It's very exciting. I guess dreams do come true sometimes.'
Heuer made it possible with relentless drive and continuing to work hard in chasing those dreams. Her senior season accomplishments go on and on.
Her medal haul started at the PAC-10 Championships where she captured the gold in the triple jump (36-5¾) and the 100 hurdles (15.45), and bronze medals in the 300 hurdles (44.82) and the 4x400 relay.
At the District 1-AAA Championships, she won the bronze in 300 hurdles (44.56) and placed fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.07), and the triple jump (37-0¾).
She went on to become the area girls highest finisher at the PIAA-AAA Championships where she placed fourth in 300 hurdles with a 44.70, and additionally placed 13th in the triple jump (36-11½) and advanced to the semifinals in 100 hurdles.
Her outstanding season also earned Heuer the Boyertown High School Girls Athlete of the Year, and not just for spring sports, but all the girls high school sports for the entire school year, much to her surprise.
"I was very shocked when they announced my name,' she said. "Because over the past few years it's usually been handed to a lacrosse girl or somebody from another sport. I was just sitting there, minding my own business. Then it was down to the last two awards and one of my good friends, Cody Richmond, a really good football player and wrestler, was announced for boys. And the next name was me. It was shocking. I was more than pleased to receive that award. It was a great thing to end my senior year on.'
Also named to the Mercury All-Area and PAC-10 first team last season, Heuer fought her way to the top this time. Graceful and slender, one has to wonder where she gets the energy for four events, all those jumps, hurdles, and 400 relay anchor legs she ran every dual meet. At the PAC-10, district, and state championships it gets even tougher with all the prelims and semis in most of her events.
She has come a long way from those early track and field days at Saint Francis Academy in Bally, where she joined the track team in kindergarten. Jumping was her main event during those early years. She added the hurdles in seventh grade but only as a side event.
"I think the coaches just thought they saw some talent, so I started to go over them,' she recalled.
Once in high school, the triple jump was again her main event, with the hurdles only now and then. That's until her junior year when she got serious about running the hurdles again.
"Once I started being successful, I kept trying to get better,' she said. "It was a fun event, and nice to race in them again.'
The 300-meter hurdles sure look even more difficult to run than the 100.
"For me, it's the 100 hurdles that are more difficult,' she said. "I'm not too quick between the hurdles, so it takes me more time to get back on the ground and up again. That's why I like the 300 because I feel more comfortable running a long distance while going over hurdles because if you mess up, it gives you more time to make up for it.'
But Heuer never lost her love for the triple jump, nor her knack for it as her gold medal at PAC-10, her fourth place at districts, and 13th at states proved. But she has come to like all her events equally.
"I can't pick a favorite,' she said. "I love all three of them for different reasons. The triple because it's more relaxing, comes natural.
"I love the hurdles because they're a thrill to run and more of a competition to me. More of a challenge, probably because I really had trouble with staying low to the hurdles, and I trail early. That's my most difficult part of them. My weakness is my start because I get too high on the hurdles and it's hard for me to get back down.'
But she has turned that early trailing into her strength, learning to really pick up on the final three or four hurdles and surging ahead. This year that took her all the way to fourth on the PIAA medal podium.
"I do well under pressure,' she said. "I'd rather compete under crazy pressure than compete with people I know I'm going to beat.'
That state medal may be the best thing about this year, it seems. But when asked about the most thrilling part about the season, Heuer instantly said, "Just being with my team every day.'
"And it was nice to see the distance girls come out and go to districts and states with me,' she added.
They came to cheer her on even though they had not qualified to compete at districts and states. But that is a Boyertown tradition among the Bears distance runners — they always have the largest non-qualifying support group there to cheer on their cross country district and state qualifiers.
Competing in four events all season long was certainly rigorous but it never entered her mind to scale down at districts and states from three to two individual events, which might have put her even higher on the medal stand.
"My mindset was to do all three and hope to advance in all three,' she said. "I didn't want to give up one because I didn't think it was worth it. I'd rather do all three and see where things landed. I'm happy I did. I'm well in shape to keep up with all three of my events and I don't think it's worth giving up one to see if maybe I get top three instead of top eight. I'd rather get eighth place in two events, than a first in just one event because I've done them all since freshman year. I don't regret anything.'
Team success was equally important to her, which is why the 4x400 relay meant so much to her.
"It was extremely important to me,' she said. "We set a goal as a team to make the top four going into the PAC-10 Championships so we could try and place first. We knew Methacton was a tough one to beat. But it was very exciting to finish out strong as a team and get second in the PAC-10. It was just awesome to see all the relay team being so successful in the races, so much fun.'
Heuer was also the first-ever Boyertown girl to qualify in three individual events for states.
'That was really exciting,' she said with a big smile.
Competition always brings out another side in Heuer.
"I'm quiet and stay to myself, but at meets I make a lot of friends, talk to a lot of competitors,' she said. "I know it sounds a little strange, but I really got close with Caroline Duffy from Methacton, and Jill Weston from Owen J., running the 300 hurdles. At District 1, we all got close with Onuoha Uchechi from Pennsbury. We all got really close, joking around while we were sitting there waiting for events to start, taking pictures, tweeting each other, supporting each other. And when we got three of us from the PAC-10 up on that podium at districts that was a good experience.'
Weston won the 300 hurdles district gold, Uchechi the silver, Heuer the bronze, and Duffy placed fourth.
"Finishing out strong my senior year was always in the back of my mind, to do well at districts and states,' Heuer said. "I was hoping that nothing happened, looking forward to staying healthy and finishing the year strong.
"I'm just ecstatic to have had a season when everything went completely well. I wouldn't go back and change a thing about my senior year. It was a great ending.'
The end of her time at Boyertown leaves Heuer feeling bittersweet, but she is ready for her new beginning as she continues her track and field career at the University of Delaware.
"I'm ready to move on to bigger and better things, but I'm going to miss high school a lot. It's going to be different. High school track was always a fun thing and it's going to be missed.'
Follow Rosemarie Ross on Twitter @RoseRoss31