DOBSON — Daniel Alvarez-Orlachia still has two state titles to defend, but he’s already chosen his future as he commits to Davidson College.
Alvarez is a versatile runner who has received all-conference honors in a variety of distances from 400 meters to 5,000.
How many all-conference honors does he have? Better get an abacus.
Alvarez and coach Jason Bryant ran out of fingers as they counted his many honors in one of the most prestigious careers in Surry Central’s long track history.
Alvarez was impressive from his first day of high school, winning the conference cross country championship. He followed that up with three more all-conference honors.
He has run indoor track during the winter, but Bryant noted that there aren’t enough teams that have winter track to have a regular conference season.
In the spring, he earned all-conference in four events as a freshman and has nine for his first three seasons. That gives him 13 honors overall, not including however many he earns this spring.
He won one conference title in cross country and eight more in track events.
Surry Central has had some great runners over the decades, especially with former coach Rex Mitchell in his peak, explained Bryant. So setting school records is pretty hard, but Daniel has two school marks in the 500 meters and 1,000 meters in indoor track.
Then in February, Alvarez claimed his first state 1A/2A title. Not only did he win the 1,000 meter crown, Alvarez broke the state record.
In indoor track, one lap is 200 meters, not 400 like outdoor tracks. So the race is five laps.
“Daniel ran a great race, working on positioning throughout the first three laps,” said Bryant. “The others were out fast on the first lap, and Daniel was toward the back, which was right on pace. The next two laps had him working through tight spaces around the other racers to get into position to compete for the win.
“Daniel moved into the lead on the fourth of the five laps, moved hard with 200 to go. … Sean Doyle of Polk County responded, pulling shoulder to shoulder for the final 80 yards. Daniel did a great job of holding position around the curve and holding form through the line.”
Then in the spring, Alvarez added another gold medal, winning the 800 meters over the top seed, Jalen Drayton.
“Daniel got out smart and under control, and he did a good job not getting stuck in the pack,” said Bryant. “He came to the front on the straightaway at the end of the first lap, passed a couple of kids, and got to the front, where he was able to run on the inside rail.
“He’d opened up a gap of six to eight yards coming off the turn into the final 100. (Drayton) had to use some of his final sprint just to catch Daniel. He caught him 30 yards from the finish, but Daniel kicked in and got back in front with 10 yards to go.”
When a slender freshman showed up on campus, Bryant had only moved up to head coach two years earlier with the retirement of Mitchell. The first time he saw the freshman run a lap, Bryant thought, “Oh my.”
“The good thing about Daniel is when he started, he took it serious,” said Bryant. “And he maintained that throughout, which is hard to do. … It says a lot about the success he’s had.”
That 800-meter race in May lasted only 118 seconds, he said, but that doesn’t show all the time that Daniel has spent on developing his core strength, improving his running techniques and learning race strategy and skills. Most high school runners never get to the point where they are learning racing skills because they haven’t gotten all the other parts down first.
Mitchell’s famous quote adorns a monument at Surry Central: “If it were easy, everybody would be good.”
Alvarez apparently disagrees. “It’s not that hard to be good. you just have to listen to what you’re told and do it every day,” he said. “You get what you put in. The harder you train, the better you are.”
While his school races haven’t gone any longer than 3.1 miles, Alvarez said he trains at distances much longer than that, once jogging 17 miles with Bryant.
He recalled one run where the snow was coming down hard when he, Bryant and Elvis Vega started. About two miles in, three dogs came up and were nipping at their heels. Rather than stop at the edge of their own territory, those three dogs (including one little dachshund) kept following them. Alvarez said he felt bad that the mutts followed them all the way to the high school, about eight miles from their home.
Thinking back to Daniel’s freshman year, Bryant said that like a lot of beginners, Daniel was overstriding at first, Bryant said. It was causing him some knee pain.
The two worked on shortening that stride. Later came focusing on getting a good push-off and using every available muscle to help him run faster and more efficiently.
Bryant said he would show Daniel something, then the teen would go off on his own and work on it repeatedly to get it down. Then, after a couple of years of training, Bryant started working with Alvarez on how to lengthen his stride back out while maintaining good form.
With all the titles and awards, it seems hard to believe, but the young man “struggled” his sophomore year. Bryant said it took a while to figure out that he had an iron deficiency that was holding him back. He still managed to win the conference title in the 1,600 meters and qualified for the state championship in three events.
Alvarez said his first state championship last winter was the best. It was his first time, and the moment seemed to stretch out longer, he said.
Having the opportunity to attend Davidson is something Daniel can be proud of, said Bryant. Just getting in shows his dedication not just as an athlete but as a student.
Alvarez said his GPA is 4.79, and Bryant added that he scored well on the SATs and ACTs. Alvarez was class president for the freshman and sophomore years, school vice president as a junior and student body president this year. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the Twelve Team (sort of like Quiz Bowl).
Alvarez said English is his favorite subject, but he doesn’t know yet what he’ll choose for a college major. He tried taking an aptitude test, and it told him he should be a taxidermist, he said with a smile.
He gave thanks to Coach Bryant, his parents and friends for supporting him all along the way.
• 400m – 52.94
• 800m – 1:57.51
• 1000m (in) – 2:36.35
• 1600m (in) – 4:34.15
• 1600m – 4:32.80
• 3200m (in) – 10:28.22
• 3200m – 10:13.06
• 5K (xc) – 16:44.43
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.