By Andy Warrener
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
Gaither sophomore Samson Moore is only 15 years old, but he is already sending shockwaves through the national track scene.
Samson already owns the Cowboys school record by running the 110-meter hurdles in 14.29 seconds, which was set last year when he finished as the Class 3A state runner-up. He added to his trophy case by winning the 400 hurdles at the AAU National Club Championships July 15 in Orlando.
“It was hugely fulfilling,” Samson said. He added, “It really didn’t set in until that night when I got home.”
Samson’s time of 53.8 was 0.6 seconds off the meet record set in 2006 by Robert Griffin III, who was taken No. 2 overall this year in the NFL draft. That time is also 0.6 seconds away from the qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic team.
Six-tenths of a second might seem like a lot in sprint events like the 100, in the 400 hurdles the difference is negligible.
According to Samson’s dad and coach Ed Moore, “Samson was so strong coming out of the eighth hurdle, he ran up and had to chop his steps. … If it wasn’t for that, the meet record would have been his.”
The national title comes a year after Samson ran poorly at the same event.
“When Samson competed in last year’s nationals, he made the finals in 400-meter hurdles, but his performance in the finals was poor,” Ed said. “He told me after that race that he would do whatever it took to come back the next year and redeem himself.”
Samson added, “I felt like I put a damper on my name, the way I performed at last year’s event. I feel like I’ve regained that respect after this year.”
Samson couldn’t work on his 400 hurdles time during the high school season because the event isn’t sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). The plan was to run the 110 hurdles and 400-meters events to work on his form clearing the obstacles and building his speed in the distance.
Ed said the way the body processes air in a 400-meter race is different than in the shorter events. When you run the 400 “it’s impossible without transitioning to your aerobic system.”
Samson showed signs that he might develop into an elite athlete at a young age. He was competing in club track by the time he was 7 years old.
“By the time he was 9 we noticed that he was not only getting better, but he was getting relatively better than his competition,” Ed said. “Kids that would beat him one year couldn’t beat him the next year, and it continues today.”
The performance earns Samson a spot in the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Houston, but he is forgoing the meet in favor of the gridiron.
“There’s a lot of people that want us to go to the Junior Olympics coming up,” Ed said. “We’re not doing that. We’ve decided that it’s time for Samson to focus on football.”
Samson said he loves the “team bond” that comes with football.
“In track, you still compete with your team, but in track your performance is entirely up to you,” Samson said. “In football it’s a different situation.”
Samson played wide receiver/safety last season on Gaither’s junior varsity football squad. Cowboys coach Jason Stokes is excited about the athleticism he can add to the varsity team.
“As a person, he’s so impressive with how hard he works,” Stokes said. “Athletically, he’s just a phenom. I can’t wait to get him going out there on the field. I really think he’s going to impress a lot of people as he grows. … A lot of guys say, ‘Oh he’s a track kid so he’s not tough enough to play football.’ With Samson that’s not the case. He’ll hit you.”
–Sports Editor Kyle LoJacono contributed to this report