As he was busy shattering school records in cross country and track, Freedom High School’s Alejandro Michel was also leading the pack in the classroom — posting a weighted 8.8285 grade-point average and earning salutatorian honors for the Class of 2018.
Those accomplishments resulted in a rare statewide designation for student-athletes: Alejandro Michel was one of 24 athletes named to the Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team.
The recognition program honors graduating seniors who excel in both athletics and academics. He was just one of 12 male athletes receiving the honor.
Each Academic All-State Team member was recognized at a banquet on June 11 in Gainesville. Each also received a $1,700 scholarship and a commemorative medallion.
“Really, a big honor,” Michel said of the prestigious student-athlete designation, in a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News. “Throughout high school my two main focuses were really just running and academics, so, this was something I genuinely enjoyed.”
The 2018 Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team selection committee received applications from 146 qualified student-athletes and evaluated them based on athletic participation, academic record, extracurricular activities, community service, and essay.
Michel, who graduated in May, checked all those boxes — and then some.
Besides being Freedom High’s second-highest ranked graduate, Michel earned his associate’s degree from Hillsborough Community College. He also was a member of the mathematics honor society, Mu Alpha Theta, where he placed third in the Calculus division of the Math Bowl.
Athletically, as a four-year member of the track and cross country teams, Michel set school records in the cross country 5K (16:18), and, in the 1,600 meter (4:35.26) and 3,200 meter (9:50.66) runs for track, respectively.
When not busy with studies or running, Michel tutored students in math and spent hours volunteered at the Florida Hospital in Tampa.
Balancing the many demands came naturally to Michel.
That’s because, according to him, distance running and education are perfect complements to one another in establishing a positive, well-balanced lifestyle.
The discipline, dedication and focus required to excel in distance running also helped him focus in his studies.
“I think they both aid each other really well,” Michel said. “I can’t see myself being just a runner, and, I can’t see myself being just a student. Really, if I get tired of running, I like learning, and, when I get tired of learning, I can take a break outside and go for a run.”
He added: “Distance runners share a certain mentality they can’t find in other sports, maybe in a few other endurance sports. Running is special, not just for skill and being physically fit, but mentally, as well.”
When he was a freshman, he woke each weekday at 3 a.m. to go for a run before school. Then, he would run with the cross country and track teams after school. It was lights out at 6 p.m.
“It was definitely tough,” Michel said of the two-a-days, “but it set me up well to break records in the next couple years.”
Up next: College and more running
Michel plans to attend Florida State University this fall.
He intends to major in statistics and minor in computer science through an accelerated program which will allow him to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in three years.
Career-wise, he’s determined to become an actuary and pursue a professional or semi-professional running career, on the side.
Michel said he’ll formally try out for the FSU track team at some point, but may take this year to train on his own. He recently began training with a new running coach who’s geared workouts for longer races, such as 8Ks and 10Ks, and eventually marathons.
Frankly, Michel can’t picture himself not being a competitive runner.
“I tell myself, ‘If I’m willing to run, I might as well give it my all,’” Michel said.
He added: “When you’re really becoming successful, you can either look at the idea of becoming successful as a motivator, or, you can really like the process — and with running, I really enjoy running.”
The runner lists his mother, Zandra Michel, and younger brother, Max Michel, as key influences in his academic and athletic prowess.
He recalls being in fifth grade, regularly jogging 5 miles with his mother as the start of his running career. “Eventually, I got to the point where I was able to not only maintain with her, but eventually pass her,” he said.
Max, meanwhile, also pushed him to succeed. They are two of seven siblings, close enough in age that Max also graduated high school this year, from Middleton High School.
Like his brother, Max has also made a name for himself, last year being elected national president of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). It is the world’s largest student career organization, boasting 230,000 students.
The younger sibling also was a member of his school’s swim team, appearing in multiple district and regional meets.
The brothers will room with each other at FSU this fall.
2018 Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) announced the 24 student-athletes for the 24th annual Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team, a recognition program that honors graduating seniors who excel in both athletics and academics.
One of the more important special recognition programs the FHSAA sponsors, a total of 12 girls and 12 boys from across the state received a total of $50,000 in scholarships.
The 2018 Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team selection committee received applications from 146 qualified student-athletes and evaluated them based off of athletic participation, academic record, extracurricular activities, community service, and essay.
Published July 11, 2018