EAST LONGMEADOW – In the conference room at East Longmeadow High School, Paige Suse nervously milled around and joked with teammates, while girls track coach Michael Budd paced around the back of the room.
After a couple of minutes, he approached this reporter and said, “You can set this up however you want; I’ve never done anything like this before.”
The event, however unfamiliar to those who put it on, with glowing words from school administrators, pictures with her coaches, teammates, and parents and grandmother, and homemade cupcakes, made one thing abundantly clear – it was an extraordinary day for not just an extraordinary athlete, but an extraordinary member of the Spartans family.
“We’ve very proud of the things that she’s done,” Budd said. “Academically, she’s in the National Honors Society, and a lot of people don’t know she’s an accomplished saxophone player. She’s phenomenal. Everything she does, she does really, really well, and she does it effortlessly. Everything she puts her mind to seems to come naturally to her.”
In signing with Northeastern, Suse officially committed to a Division 1 program that finished second in Colonial Athletic Association Championships, 11th at New England and 19th at the ECAC Championships in 2014. The school also ranks in the top-50 in U.S. News and World Report’s list of top national colleges and universities.
“[At Northeastern] I’ll be able to double-major in psychology and criminal justice, which is the biggest thing for me, but I also really like the location right in Boston. I think their campus is beautiful,” Suse said. “The official visit at Northeastern really cemented [my decision] because the team was really nice. I felt I was already part of the team and the coaches were always keeping in touch.”
Suse set the Western Massachusetts indoor track and field high jump record this year, leaping 5 feet, 6 inches. Her average jump of approximately 5 feet, 4 inches, was gold-level qualifying for USA Track and Field Nationals, Budd explained. At the New England Championships on Feb. 27, she placed 19th.
This spring, she’s going for the outdoor record, which is 5 feet, 6 ¼ inches, currently owned by Budd’s daughter, and hopes to win the All-State Championships.
“Last year it came down to a jump-off. She almost won the state championship,” Budd said.
Suse and Budd both reflected on the amount of progress she has made in her six seasons with Spartan track.
“I’ve definitely grown a lot since freshman year; I only jumped [four feet, two inches] in my first meet,” Suse said.
Budd said a large part of her growth can be attributed to the fact that beyond her physical abilities, she has an attitude that sets her apart.
“The next day after [setting the indoor high jump record], instead of resting on her laurels, what she did is she came to the meet and she worked with our freshman high-jumpers and helped them achieve a higher level of success,” Budd said. “She set another school record at the State Class Relays with one of those freshmen in the relay for the high jump and got first place. She’s the kind of person who’s very giving of herself for her team.”
He added, “She’s a self-motivated athlete. She went to Nationals last year without any help from myself or any of the coaches and she ended up finishing 22nd in the country. At Northeastern, she’s going to be phenomenal because she is a self-starter.”