Sports Person of the Week
Gott Has the Goods to Be a Top-Notch Runner
Samuel Gott is impressing during his freshman campaign with the North Branford boys’ cross country team. Samuel works tirelessly to improve his times with the T-Birds. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Gott )
Samuel Gott has big aspirations for such a young runner. While Samuel is only in his freshman year with the North Branford boys’ cross country squad, this fall marks his fourth season as a competitive runner. Samuel strives to lower his times race after race wants to finish in the top five of all of his meets going forward.
Samuel grew up in a family of runners. Even though his parents aren’t runners, all of Samuel’s aunts, uncles, and cousins are. When Samuel was eight years old, he caught the running bug and took part in the Matt’s Mission 5K with his family. Samuel has improved significantly since then. This year, he joined the Thunderbirds’ cross country program to run alongside his sister Onna, who is a senior on girls’ team.
“When we were younger, we would always do the Matt’s Mission 5K with family. As I got into 6th grade, [Onna] always helped me get into the sport and helped me enjoy it more,” Samuel says. “In high school, it’s just fun running with her. We’re family. It’s nice to have somebody on the team that I’m close with.”
Even though Samuel began running at age eight, he didn’t run competitively until the 6th grade. Samuel competed with team at North Branford Intermediate School and admits that it was a nerve-wracking at first. Samuel was running against older athletes who had more experience, but he kept going and growing. The sport came easier to him as he felt more confident.
Now as a member of the T-Birds, Samuel is finding that the competition is different than what he was used to in middle school. Instead of running 1.8 miles at meets, Samuel is now putting in three miles on the trails.
In North Branford’s first meet of the season, Samuel finished in eighth place. He then came in 13th place at the team’s second meet. In the T-Birds’ most-recent competition, Samuel moved up in the pack, earning a sixth-place finish.
As nervous as Samuel was in his first high school meet, he still broke his personal record by completing the race in less than 20 minutes. While he was proud to notch his all-time best mark, Samuel wishes that he could have celebrated with the people who helped him get into running in the first place.
“It was kind of scary, but also kind of sad. Due to COVID, my whole family couldn’t have been there. That was my first ever meet as a freshman. I was looking forward to having my family there,” says Samuel. “Overall, out of our three meets, I felt I’ve done pretty well. My first meet, I got a personal record. My other two races, I felt pretty good running them.”
Head Coach Chelsea Harris has been impressed with Samuel’s performance thus far. With a smaller team, Harris is spending plenty of time working with Samuel as he makes his way through his first high school season.
“When he first came to our preliminary conditioning over the summer, I definitely noticed that he was very strong. He was able to keep up with some of the older guys. I was pretty impressed with that. He came into the season super prepared, and I noticed from the first moment I ever saw him run,” Harris says of Samuel. “He is learning more about pacing, and I’ve definitely seen a difference. He is in much more control of his running. He is realizing that it’s not about being first. It’s about maintaining a consistent time.”
Samuel wants to keep lowering his times and continue setting personal-best marks as he dives deeper into his high school career. Samuel is always motivated on the course and, no matter what, he always wants to finish strong. Samuel feels a tremendous sense of pride in calling himself a runner.
“It doesn’t take that long. I can do it in 20 minutes if I put my mind to it. I just go out and do it,” Samuel says. “I take pride competing in one of the most mentally challenging and sometimes physically challenging sports.”