Felix Lawrence grew up in Dominica, a Caribbean island nation.
He immigrated to the United States after Hurricane Maria struck his home country in 2017. His mother sent him to live with his aunt, who resides in Howell.
That’s how he ended up at Freehold Township High School. As a new student displaced from his home, Lawrence had every reason to be upset or angry. But he never sulked.
He embraced his situation and made the most of it. And during the 2019 spring track and field season, Lawrence became maybe the best track athlete in Freehold Township history.
Lawrence qualified for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet, in Greensboro, N.C. from June 13-16, in two events, the 400-meter hurdles and the 110-meter hurdles.
He also won an NJSIAA Group 4 title in the 110-meter hurdles and two NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 titles, in the 110-meter hurdles and in the 400-meter hurdles.
Lawrence even broke school records in both of his signature events, recording a 14.04 in the 110-meter hurdles and a 52.12 in the 400-meter hurdles, both in the state group championship meet on May 31 at Franklin High School in Somerset.
“What he’s done is extremely impressive. I’ve been here a long time, since 1991,” said Freehold Township coach Brian Golub. “And this is one of top two or three track single season performers I’ve ever seen.”
“It might be the best season of all time,” he added.
Golub also coaches boys’ basketball at Freehold Township. In the winter of 2017-18, Lawrence joined the boys’ basketball program. Golub quickly noticed that Lawrence could run really fast and jump really high.
So he told the junior to come out for track in the spring, and Lawrence obliged. Golub placed Lawrence with his fastest runners and best hurdlers, and the junior could hang. That’s when the coach knew he had something.
“He was naturally sticking with them,” Golub said.
In just one year, Lawrence went from track neophyte to one of the best high school hurdlers in the country.
But even though he qualified for two events at the national meet, he did not travel to Greensboro to participate. The senior had more important business to attend to over the weekend.
With his big senior campaign, Lawrence earned a spot on the track and field team at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., next year. He visited the school this past weekend to “take care of his financial package and other business,” Golub said.
“It’s amazing,” Lawrence said of his scholarship. “It’s everything I’ve always dreamed of. I wanted it for basketball but it’s amazing I got it for running.”
The senior enjoys playing sports, but his scholarship ambition was not about his desire to keep playing one.
Lawrence wants to be a pilot. He has wanted that since he was five years old and saw airplanes flying over his head in Dominica.
“I got so excited by them, and I never dropped that dream,” Lawrence said.
Now his athletic scholarship will allow Lawrence to attend college and study aviation.
“It’s not about love of sport. It’s about what I can get from it,” Lawrence said. “College will be one of the most important steps of my life. I have to make the most of it.”