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Simply the Best!

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This Oviedo High runner recently posted the fastest 800-meter time in America!

Sam Austin had no intention of competing in track and field when he arrived at Oviedo High School as a freshman in 2017. He had played soccer since he was about seven years old and was content to continue to play that sport for the Lions. But after his freshman year on the junior varsity team, his mother suggested he join the school’s cross-country team during the fall of his sophomore year, and that’s when Sam discovered his destiny.

Cross-country coach Dave Tibbetts recognized Sam’s untapped talent and convinced him to join Oviedo’s track team, where he would become part of the Lions’ State Champion 4x800-meter relay squad during the spring of his sophomore year. Then, despite missing out on his junior year when track season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam emerged as the best 800-meter high-school runner in the entire United States during his senior year.

His time of one minute, 50 seconds at the Bob Mosher Wildcat Open in Winter Park this past April was the best time in the nation this year and was also the second-best 800-meter time ever in Central Florida. A few weeks later, Sam won the Class 4A state title in the 800 with a time of 1:51.06.

“Although Sam has only run track and field and cross-country for three years, what he’s accomplished is remarkable,” Coach Tibbetts says. “He is not only a gifted athlete, but he is also one of the finest young men I’ve had the privilege to coach. He’s been a great captain and leader of this team for the last two years.”

Sam, who graduated in May and is headed to the University of Florida, had the best times in the nation this past season in both the indoor and outdoor 800 meters as well as the 4x800 relay. He holds five outdoor and three indoor records at Oviedo High School and was nominated for the 2020 Gatorade National Player of the Year award for track and field.

“I really didn’t think I’d go very far in soccer; I wasn’t that good,” says Sam, 18, “but I didn’t see this happening at all. When I started running, I had a good friend on the team, and we weren’t very serious. We just jogged around and had fun.”

Once Coach Tibbetts tabbed Sam to join brothers Kayamo and Mamush Galloway and Angel Vicioso on the 4x800 relay team, Sam started realizing his middle-distance potential. When the team took first place at the prestigious Pepsi Florida Relays in Gainesville early in the season, Sam quit playing soccer for good and became obsessed with running.

“Before that meet, I wasn’t thinking about running in college; I didn’t think I was that good,” Sam says. “I just wanted to win the State Championship with my friends.”

With only two years of competition under his belt, Sam has likely just scratched the surface of his potential. He is hoping to “go out with a bang” this summer, he says, when he competes in some prestigious national high-school meets before heading to Gainesville in August.

“It’s going to be really fun in college, training with a bunch of people who are really serious about running,” says Sam. “I’ll be able to get a lot better, having other people to push me. I’m extremely excited.”

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