IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Nate Carlton wasn’t happy with his body two years ago.
Too thin, the New Trier lacrosse defenseman thought in his sophomore season on varsity. Not strong enough.
Carlton wanted to be able to hold his own against bigger, faster, stronger, stick-wielding boys with designs on firing an unforgiving ball toward his goalie.
“I had some one-on-one conversations with [New Trier strength and conditioning coach] Jim Davis,” recalls Carlton, now a senior and third-year varsity player for the 8-1 Trevians.
“In one of our talks I told him what I wanted my body to look like by the time I became a senior.”
Carlton, the senior, stands 6 feet and weighs 190 pounds — 25 pounds heavier than the frame he adorned with lax togs and gear back in the 2016 season, when New Trier finished runner-up to Loyola Academy in the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association (IHSLA) state tournament.
Carlton lifted weights, not helping after helping of bad food, to transform his look.
“The lacrosse team is one of the best teams we have in the weight room, and Nate is a true leader of that group,” Davis says. “Over the years we’ve watched him develop in confidence, maturity and ability. His growth has been impressive.
“What I appreciate most is that whether he’s lifting or playing lacrosse, he genuinely seems to be having fun. I believe his ability to balance hard work with pure enjoyment of the game is the driving force of his success.”
Carlton earned All-America honors last spring. Success. He helped New Trier top Loyola Academy in the IHSLA state championship game last spring. Success. He committed to play lacrosse at Fairfield (Connecticut) University. Success. The Wilmette resident and 3D Colorado Select and Rotten Apples club lacrosse player was named a co-captain of this spring’s New Trier squad, ranked No. 3 in the Midwest by a lacrosse website on April 14. Success, success.
“Good athlete, strong,” Trevians boys lacrosse coach Tom Herrala says of Carlton, a lacrosse player since the age of 8. “Good leader, too, especially in the weight room. He’s been a staple on ‘D’ for us, and he’s our top cover guy this year; we make him defend the other team’s top offensive player.”
Adam Dickson is in his second season as New Trier’s boys lacrosse defensive coordinator. A native of Canada (Burlington, Ontario), he was a defenseman at Salisbury (Maryland) University and graduated from the school with the perennially successful Division III men’s lacrosse program in 2013; SU Sea Gulls teams have won 12 NCAA championships, including the last two. Only Hobart (New York) College, with 13, has claimed more national titles in Division III than SU’s total.
“Nate,” Dickson says, “competes, loves to compete. Real strong, with great footwork. We can count on him, and our defense — it counts on him.”
Carlton displayed his dexterity and toughness in stretches of NT’s 11-7 home loss to Midwest-ranked St. Xavier (Ohio) High School on April 14. Shortly after scooping a groundball and flicking it quickly to a teammate to ignite a second-quarter transition in miserable and nearly unplayable weather conditions, Carlton caused a turnover, using his stick to jar a ball loose from a Bombers attackman.
“Nate knows what he’s doing, he’s talented, and he helps our defense, teaches our defensemen,” says NT senior co-captain and defenseman Wilson MacRitchie. “You have to rely on the teamwork game within the game on defense. A big part of defense is trust. You have to trust each other when you’re playing together on defense, and we all trust Nate.”
Before opting to focus all of his athletic energy on lacrosse, Carlton played hockey, soccer and “a little basketball.” Lacrosse, he discovered, required some basketball skills, some hockey skills, some soccer skills.
“A mixture of many sports … that’s what lacrosse is,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed playing it. The lateral movements we make in lacrosse are similar to the ones players make in several other sports.”
In between his weightlifting sessions in the offseason, Carlton made sure he moved regularly in his neighborhood, specifically along the block near his house. Joggers oftentimes wave to their neighbors.
But Carlton isn’t a jogger.
“I’d do sprints, lots of sprints,” Carlton says. “You need to sprint, have that burst of speed, in lacrosse.”
Dogs would leave Carlton alone. Easier to chase cars than it is to fetch a speeding lax player.
“My neighbors probably thought it was odd, seeing a guy sprint as many times as I did,” says the bigger, faster, stronger Carlton.
Notable: Trevians junior middie Brian Sitzer scored four goals and senior middie Johnny Maday a pair in New Trier’s 11-7 loss to visiting St. Xavier (Ohio) High School on April 14. New Trier (8-1) had entered the game ranked No. 3 in the Midwest by a lacrosse website; St. Xavier (6-1) was No. 6. NT junior attack Henry Scherb finished with a goal and two assists. Junior middie Gavin Randle provided an assist. St. Xavier’s Bombers led 4-3 at the half and scored three unanswered goals — in a 2:33 span — at the end of the third quarter to swell their advantage to 9-5. Maday’s second goal of the game cut St. Xavier’s lead to 9-7 with 4:20 left in the final quarter. The game’s third formidable opponent was the weather in Northfield: horizontal rain, November-like temperatures, howling winds. … Reigning state champion New Trier outscored its first nine opponents by a combined 119-31 this spring, including a 20-0 rout of host Deerfield on April 10.