Crook Eager To Play Lacrosse Again At Natick High
Captain Competes To Honor Memory Of Mom
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Alex Crook will be extremely pleased to play lacrosse this spring for a variety of reasons.
Last year, when the covid-19 pandemic struck, all spring sports were canceled, forcing the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Natick High defender to miss his junior year after two promising seasons as an underclassman.
Crook, a captain and honorable mention all-star in hockey last winter, is eager to get his senior year of lacrosse underway because he wants Natick High to dominate the Carey Division standings, qualify for the tourney and advance past the second round. The Redhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in each of his first two years in the second round. His individual goals include being a top-notch captain, a quality leader on defense and a Bay State Conference all-star.
“We’ve got a good mix of talent on our team but could use some added experience,’’ Crook said. “We weren’t able to get a look at our younger players last year but I think they’ll adjust and make the jump to the varsity. Wellesley will be a challenge for us, a traditionally strong team and one of our top rivals. On defense, I’d like our midfielders and defenders to be viewed as a tough-as-nails group that’s difficult to penetrate, like trying to go through a brick wall.’’
The 18-year-old Crook, who’s a National Honor Society student with a 4.27 GPA, says “it would be cool to be a league all-star.’’
Being a captain in lacrosse and being a potential all-star choice sure would have made his mother (Marnie) proud. She succumbed to cancer at the age of 42, when Alex was in the fifth grade and only 11 years old.
“I compete hard to honor her memory,’’ Crook said. “Her death was difficult to comprehend early on but it’s motivated me to play for her. She competed in an adult women’s ice hockey league and she was upset when she was unable to play. A psychologist, she often emphasized that everyone has tough times. She taught me to think about other peoples’ situations and to understand their emotions no matter what they’re dealing with. That’s why I try to lead in a way that’s sensitive and respectful.’’
Nate Kittler, who’s been coaching Natick’s varsity for 21 years, has a plethora of superlatives when assessing his star defender.
“Alex has a high athletic IQ, he’s physically and mentally tough, and he’s a leader whose decision-making is instinctive,’’ Kittler said. “What makes him one of the conference’s top defenders are his footwork, stick skills, and lateral movement. If he gets beat, he never loses focus and he never lets emotions overcome him. A defender rarely gets much notice even when they shut down an offensive star. Alex isn’t worried about a lack of publicity.’’
Crook thoroughly enjoys lacrosse and strives to meet every challenge he faces on defense.
“Communication is a big key on defense,’’ he noted. “It’s important for the midfielders, defenders and goalie to work together to prevent goals. Lacrosse is exciting because it’s fast-paced and strategic. It also allows you to be creative.’’
Crook, whose family moved to Natick from Framingham when he was four, rates Natick’s first-round playoff game against Silver Lake as his most memorable game. That contest came during his sophomore season in 2019.
“The two squads were evenly matched,’’ he recalled. “Our teamwork was excellent. I was pleased with my consistency on defense and I broke up a lot of scoring opportunities. We won, but unfortunately we were later eliminated by Franklin. My top thrill in lacrosse came when the coaches chose me as one of the team’s captains. I was really honored.’’
Natick’s other captains, like Crook, are all seniors — midfielders T.J. Dalicandro, Will Genaske, and Nick Polymeros.
“They’re all quality leaders,’’ Crook said. “T.J. is a vocal captain and a great lockdown defender. Will is sneaky fast, moves elusively and is a scoring threat. Nick is strong and physical and very capable on faceoffs.’’
Crook also admires his coach, calling Kittler “a great motivator who’s dedicated to the team.’’ His passion for lacrosse also impresses Crook. “Coach Kittler really loves the sport,’’ he said. “And, when we’re facing a tough opponent, he often delivers a poignant speech.’’
Crook is delighted the spring season has the green light to play matches. Last spring, he was very disappointed sports were canceled.
“I tried to be positive but it was sad we lost the entire season,’’ he said. “I’m really thankful we’re set to compete soon. I’m excited and eager in spite of any modifications that are imposed. We’d prefer no changes but it’s a reality and we have to adjust. New rules will be helpful because we can compete and co-exist with the virus without sacrificing health and safety.’’
Crook and his teammates in ice hockey adjusted well to all the modifications imposed during the winter. He played center on the first line and had 2 goals and 8 assists. “We finished with a 6-4-2 record and it was a cool feeling to be named an all-star,’’ he said. “My strength was passing. I usually get more assists than goals.’’
Relying on an athletic philosophy that stresses winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun, Crook’s favorite professional athlete is Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. “He plays a lot of defense as a front-liner and he’s also a passing center,’’ Crook noted.
A college selection is just around the corner for Crook who’s interested in attending Brown, the University of Buffalo or UMass-Amherst. He plans on majoring in bio-chemistry and likely will compete in sports at the club level.
Calling his late mother a role model because of her strength and the inspiring way she handled her illness, Crook also admires his father. “Both my parents were always supportive and encouraging,’’ he emphasized.
Athletics teach valuable life lessons, like developing a strong work ethic and how to be a leader. Another life lesson that athletes often learn is how to overcome adversity. Crook gets high marks in that area.
A top-notch, two-sport athlete and an incredible student, Alex Crook is a role model in many ways. Dealing with the loss of his mom in such a dignified and classy way also makes him special.