Fleming’s Goals Are Lofty For NHS Cross-country Team Senior Runner A Captain in 3 Sports
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Sean Fleming is a dynamic ambassador for Natick High because he checks lots of boxes.
The 17-year-old senior is a three-sport athlete (cross-country, basketball and track) and he’s a captain in all three. A leader in athletics who relies on a team-first approach, he also demonstrates versatility in the classroom. Fleming is a National Honor Society student who’s considering Villanova, Boston College, Holy Cross and Providence College as a future academic venue where he plans on majoring in either economics or communications.
A native of Natick, the 5-foot-9, 138-pound Fleming also is quick to deflect praise. The Redhawks’ cross-country team is talented, has depth, and experience. And, it’s Fleming who credits the squad’s moderate success to the other captains — Jacob Tobin, Nick Bianchi, Brady Miller, Sebastian Vickers-Richard, Steven D’Alessandro, and Brian Authur.
“They are all encouraging and motivating every day and that pushes everyone on the team to get better every day,’’ Fleming said.
Fleming, who started running at nine years old, has set three team goals that he believes can be achieved.
“We can win the state title,’’ Fleming said. “I’d also like to see us finish in the top two of the Northeast Regional Meet, and winning the Bay State Conference meet is also realistic. Out team constantly strives to develop a strong work ethic.’’
Running the mile and two-mile events in outdoor track, Fleming has become a top-notch cross-country competitor. Now in his fourth varsity season, he possesses some key assets to handle distance running.
“I rely on endurance, mental toughness, a high running IQ and hard work,’’ Fleming offered. “Running lots of miles while training builds endurance. Mental toughness helps one to become resilient, and a good running IQ helps me to know when to relax and when to kick. And, a relentless work ethic leads to success.’’
Fleming’s best meet so far was the BSC championship meet last year. He finished 19th in a time of 16:32 and Natick finished third after compiling a 6-3 league record.
“What made it special was finishing 19th after recovering from surgery in the six weeks leading up to the meet,’’ he said. “I had a bone fragment removed from my femur (thigh). The result was a confidence-booster, it built up my mental toughness and it motivated me. My personal goals this year are to break 15:45 and to finish in the top 10 at the All-State meet’’
“Sean is ferocious when it comes to finishing a race,’’ said Natick coach Matt Miller. “There are very few athletes who are as competitive as he is when he’s in a tight race with a lot on the line. He can really extend himself beyond previous limits. He’s primed to be in our top five of a very strong team. His strength and commitment are such that he could be anywhere from our No. 1 runner to No. 5. Ultimately, he’s going to help us tremendously in our quest for a state championship. And, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to lead the team and set a great example.
At Local Town Pages deadline, Natick had a 2-2 record after a pair of tri-meets. The Redhawks defeated Milton and Braintree and lost to Brookline and Wellesley. Fleming was Natick’s No. 3 runner in the meet against Brookline and Milton, but against Wellesley and Braintree, he was Natick’s No. 1 runner and third overall for the meet.
“My time of 16:12 against Wellesley and Braintree was a personal best,’’ Fleming said. “I cut 20 seconds off what was my best (16:32). Our 2-2 record is a good start because Brookline and Wellesley are ranked in the top 10 in the state. Our loss to Wellesley was by only two points and we didn’t have one of our top runners available.’’
Last year, at the Northeast Regional in New York, Fleming was Natick’s No. 3 runner, helping the Redhawks to a 12th-place finish.
“I enjoy cross-country because it’s a team sport with an individual focus,’’ Fleming emphasized. “We all train together but when a race begins, it’s every man for himself. Runners who place score points that increase the team’s total. Some meets offer bigger challenges and that builds mental toughness. And, a runner has to trust the process — which involves practice where improvement and technical adjustments occur.’’
Fleming has fared well in outdoor track, too, running his best two-mile in 9:46.25 as a junior in the Division 2 All-State meet. “That was my best meet,’’ he noted. “And that’s my best time. I was relaxed and that meet provided confidence.’’
At the New Balance National Meet at the University of Pennsylvania last spring, Natick’s 4 x one mile relay team set a school record in a time of 18:28.24. Fleming ran a 4:29 mile.
The starter at point guard in basketball, Fleming helped the Redhawks go 14-6 last year before bowing to Waltham in the tourney. An excellent passer who sees the court well, he makes his teammates better.
“My best game last year came against Brookline,’’ he recalled. “I scored only six points but I had 13 assists. It was fun getting all those assists. I started the game with a turnover but didn’t commit another one the rest of the way.’’
His basketball coach, Mike Masto, is impressed with his versatility.
“Sean is a relentless worker,’’ said Masto. “He’s always willing to learn and isn’t afraid to fail. He’s such an impressive young man. During the summer, he volunteered countless hours to both the boys and girls youth basketball programs. Sean averaged 4 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds a game for us last year. He has great court vision and selflessness, and he puts his teammates in a great position to score.’’
To be selected a captain in three sports isn’t a unique situation but it sure is special. Fleming calls it his top thrill in sports.
“I’m honored because it shows respect,’’ he said. “Teammates vote and the coaches approve the choices. I’ll lead by example and by being communicative, vocal and supportive. I enjoy a leadership role because it’s all about influencing the team in a positive way.’’
Fleming also admires the way Miller directs both the cross-country and the outdoor track teams. “He’s a great motivator, who’s super dedicated to the team,’’ Fleming said. “He knows both sports and we trust his judgment.’’
Calling his parents (Jack and Kathleen) role models for their support and encouragement, Fleming relies on an athletic philosophy that focuses on winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun. “When you win, you create fun,’’ he said.
Fleming says that sports go a long way in helping to learn valuable life lessons. “I’ve learned how to overcome adversity, how to lead, and how to communicate,’’ he offered. “Sports also push competitors to be goal-oriented.’’
Sports, especially running, has been a way of life for the Fleming family. Jack, who ran track and cross-country at Boston College, is the CEO of the Boston Athletic Association. Kathleen, who competed in track and cross-country at Villanova, ran the 1500-meter event for New Balance, Nike and Reebok. Fleming’s sister, Caroline, is running track and cross-country at Boston College, and his brother, Patrick, plays soccer at Villanova.
Cross-country, track and basketball seem to suit Sean Fleming. A captain in all three sports, there’s little doubt that his leadership ability will be a great asset in his future whether it’s in athletics, the classroom or the workplace.