Sam Geiger possesses obvious physical gifts, but his mental abilities have helped him become one of the best high school long-distance runners in Washington. He doesn’t get nervous when he’s running a race. He’s able to stay calm and steady by concentrating on his goals and eliminating distractions.
“When I’m racing, I always have this mindset of staying locked in, blocking out the noise from the crowd and having my eyes focused in front of me so I can keep passing people,” the Camas High School senior said. “I just stay locked in on the prize.”
Geiger took a similar approach to choosing a college. For the past several months, he was “locked in” on the idea of continuing his running career at Gonzaga University. Earlier this month, he earned the “prize” by signing a letter of intent to join the Bulldogs’ cross country and track and field programs after he graduates from high school this spring.
Geiger said he had many reasons for choosing Gonzaga, but that the main reason was coach Pat Tyson.
“The culture that he’s created on that team is amazing. I think me walking into that will be really helpful. Also, it’s a private school, so I’ll like the smaller class sizes. I think I’ll be a perfect (fit) there,” said Geiger, who placed sixth at the 2019 4A state cross country meet.
“It’s a great program, and I think he’ll do well there,” Camas cross country coach Laurie Porter added. “He will be surrounded by a great group (of runners) and a great coach. With his potential, I know he will help out that team. They’re fortunate to have him. He’s got lots of time to improve, and I’m excited to follow his career.”
Geiger also considered scholarship offers from Washington State University, the University of Washington, Boise State University and Oklahoma State University, but couldn’t say “no” to Tyson and his program, which qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-I cross country championship meet for the first time in school history earlier this year.
“I had my first phone call from Gonzaga in November or December,” Geiger said. “Each phone call I had with them, (the relationship) kind of emerged along the way. Each month I would chat with them about what I’m thinking about where I wanted to go to school. I got to hear what (Tyson) believes about running. I thought, ‘Gonzaga is the perfect fit for me.'”
Tyson has developed a strong rapport with the Camas running program during the past several years; former Papermakers David Connell, Yacine Guermali and Jackson Lyne are currently on the Bulldogs’ roster.
“I really like this strong young man out of Camas,” Tyson said in a news release. “Sammy has a mix of great speed and endurance. He’s one of the best young talented runners in the Pacific Northwest. 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.”
“I’m excited to see Sam heading to Gonzaga,” said Karen Goritski, the Camas track and field team’s long-distance coach. “I’m sure it will be a very good fit for Sam and nice (for him) to see some familiar faces when he arrives as a freshman. Sam is a very quiet young man, (but gets) very excited when he’s training and racing well.”
Geiger set a personal record at the 2019 Nike Hole in the Wall cross country invitational, finishing the 5,000-meter race in 15 minutes, 15 seconds. On the track, Geiger clocked a personal-best time of 4:15.12 in the 1,600-meter run and 1:55 in the 800 in 2019.
“My body has matured really well throughout the years,” said Geiger, who plans to study business at Gonzaga. “I’ve gotten a lot more consistent in my training (during) my junior and senior years. I’m always motivated to improve. I never think that I’ve done my best. I always think I have improvement ahead of me.”
Geiger hasn’t participated in the Papermakers’ cross country season this winter due to a stress fracture in his femur, but said he hopes to be healthy for the track and field season in April.
“I’ve worked pretty hard this year on improving my overall strength,” Geiger said. “I’ve been working out a lot on my core and doing a lot of elliptical training and biking. I’ve been training really hard, and I’m really looking forward to college racing and running some really fast times.”
Born to run
Sam Geiger comes from a running family. His father, Tom Geiger, ran for Lewis and Clark College. His mother, Sherrie Crang-Geiger, enjoyed a distinguished career at the University of Idaho, winning a national championship in the 3,000-meter run at the Association for Intercollegiate Athletes for Women Division II Track and Field Championships in 1984. She was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2014.
Sam’s older brother, Shane Geiger, took third place at the 2007 4A state meet, held Camas High’s 1,600-meter record for 10 years and went on to run for the University of Portland.
Not surprisingly, Sam embraced running at an early age. But for a number of years, he was actually more interested in another sport.
“Sam was a really good basketball player,” his mother said. “All the way through middle school he was all about basketball and track was just secondary. Soon enough, he found out that he has some (running) talent. Not until he was a freshman at Camas High did he decide to take running at little more seriously. We found out that he had phenomenal talent and the rest is history.”
Sam set a goal of attaining a scholarship to a Division I school when he was a ninth-grader, but didn’t really believe he could attain it until he was a sophomore. After he finished second in the boys’ 1-mile finals race at the 2019 Arcadia Invitational, one of the largest and most prestigious annual meets in the United States, he began to realize what he was capable of accomplishing.
“I honestly started out pretty bad; I was like second or third to last,” he said. “Throughout the race, I passed a few people and was able to get second place — I went from 12th to second. At the end of that race, I was like, ‘I put in some work, but I think I can definitely put in more work to be better.’ It gave me confidence. I really attacked it in the summer and had a good cross-country year (in the fall of 2019).”
The Geiger family may have provided Sam with a foundation for running success, but he’s had to build on top of it in order to get to where he is today. It’s a good thing, then, that he enjoys the building process as much as he does.
“I’m sure genetics plays a huge role in Sam’s success,” Porter said. “But his work ethic is phenomenal. He has a passion for competing and a lot of drive, which comes from his family. His mom and brother were amazing runners, and that legacy has been handed down to him. He’s following in their footsteps, but really coming into his own.”
“I think what really sets Sam apart from other runners is his willingness to listen and learn everything as much as he possibly can in order to continue to progress to the next level of competition,” Crang-Geiger added. “I believe the biggest asset that Sam possesses is that he competes with a ton of heart. He finds joy in (running) and the opportunity to compete. I haven’t seen any athlete that competes with the (same) incredible determination, drive and focus as Sam.”