Senior runner who excels at 1,600 has remained mentally prepared throughout pandemic
Camas runner Sam Geiger was a rising star in Washington high school track and field, the top finisher as a sophomore at the 2019 Class 4A state championships in the 1,600-meter run.
Earlier that season, he ran a race in California that solidified in his mind that he could hang with the best of the best.
A year ago, as a junior, he was ready to prove he was even faster.
Of course, he and every other track and field athlete, every other spring sport athlete, were shut down by the pandemic.
Geiger might have been shut out of competition, but he refused to stop his training. His drive to succeed would not be affected.
“It was a huge bummer to everyone,” Geiger said of the spring shutdown of 2020.
“In a way, though, it was great for me. It mentally pushed me. It mentally made me tougher. When I go off to college, I’ll be really ready to improve and run really fast times.”
He will do that at Gonzaga University. Geiger has signed with the Zags for track and field as well as cross country.
Before he heads to Spokane, though, he has one final season with the Papermakers. For the second year in a row, there will not be a state championship meet. But at least there will be some competition, some sort of final event to race, to run, to feel free.
Geiger put himself through his own time trials last spring, pushing himself. That is not an easy thing to do for a competitor.
“I’m a guy who gets really pumped up when I race against people,” Geiger said. “The adrenaline flows from me. That plays a huge role.”
There is no way to replicate a championship event while training in front of no one.
“I don’t think anybody can,” he said. “It’s just different when there is a whole crowd watching you run.”
Geiger did not hit the marks he wanted to while training on his own. Instead, though, he proved to himself that he could sustain a workout, knowing there was no reward of a competition any time soon. That’s the kind of inner strength, he said, that will help him succeed in the future.
“The days I don’t run, I regret it,” Geiger said. “I like to get outdoors, get fresh air. I’m an outdoors type of guy. One thing about running that it has taught me is the stuff you get out of it. Physically and mentally, you want to strive for greatness. It just translates to life and school. If you want to be good at anything, you’ve got to work hard at it.”
Running and racing has been a family thing for Sam. His older brother Shane shined at Camas back in 2007. He clocked in at 4:13 that season in the 1,600.
“I think I would have broke that last year,” Sam Geiger proudly says.
Shane ended up racing at the University of Portland. Sam’s father, Tom, ran track and field at Lewis and Clark in Portland. And Sam’s mom, Sherrie, used to coach at Camas. She ran at the University of Idaho.
Sam said there is no added pressure being from a family of runners. Instead, the family has just helped him along his journey.
No matter who one’s family is, though, there must be personal growth in order to succeed in athletics.
“I’ve changed a lot since freshman year to senior year,” Sam Geiger said. “I’ve been focused on doing what I need to do, what I need to work on in my training. It’s led to huge improvements every year.”
As a sophomore, he went to Arcadia, Calif., and hit the 4:16 mark for the mile.
“That really showed me I could run with the big dogs,” he said.
Then at state, he finished 11th in the 1,600, the best among all sophomores.
“Freshman year, I was just a shy and timid guy,” he said.
He noticed a change going into his sophomore year.
“I got more of a schedule, a routine,” he said. “Freshman year, I was a little lazy on stuff.”
Since then, he has tried to perfect every workout. He pays attention to what he eats. He notes that getting good sleep is essential for an athlete.
All the work and progress managed to get the attention of college coaches.
In March, Gonzaga announced the signing of Geiger.
“He’s one of the best young talented runners in the Pacific Northwest,” said Pat Tyson, the director of both programs, in a press release. “He is so pumped to wear the Gonzaga jersey and help the Zags to continue chasing excellence as a runner, student, and champion in the community.”
Geiger said he liked talking to Tyson and felt an instant connection as an athlete to coach.
“I feel like he was the most ‘realist’ guy,” Geiger said. “He wanted the best for me. He showed that each time I talked to him. A big factor in that (decision) is the culture he has created there. It seems like everyone’s got each other’s back. That was huge.”
Sam Geiger still has some more to do in high school, though.
Again, no state meet this year, but at least there is competition. And he loves representing Camas. He was injured a bit but still competed this past cross country season. Now, he said, he is healthy and ready to run.
For this season, and beyond.
“Camas has brought me a lot as an athlete, and I think it will translate well to the collegiate level,” Geiger said. “In my years at college, I think you’ll see big improvements.”
Note: Spring and winter sports practices started Monday for the 4A and 3A GSHL programs. The two seasons will run simultaneously through June. The 2A and 1A schools started spring sports a couple weeks ago. A winter sports season will begin later this academic year. Clark County Today will post profiles on athletes from a variety of sports in the coming weeks as athletic programs conclude the COVID-19 sports calendar.