Sam Yeager has rightfully earned a spot among FHC’s most accomplished runners


On Wednesday, September 22, senior Sam Yeager climbed up to the number-four spot on FHC’s all-time record list for 5,000 meters after a remarkable fifth-place finish against 188 other runners.

“I ran a 16:04.5 at an OK White Jamboree at Riverside Park in September, which put me at number four all-time for 5,000 meters,” Sam said. “When I finished that race, I felt like I had accomplished so much as a long-distance runner; it felt great.”

For the past four years—not just this year, Sam has been a staple in the West Michigan cross country scene. He finished 142 overall at states as a freshman, he took an All-Conference spot in 2019, and he almost broke the top 100 at states last season as a junior. Along with those honors, Sam has also made a name for himself at nationally-renowned events, including the Junior Olympics and New Mexico states. There, Sam crossed the finish line in second place.

Now, Sam translates that early success in New Mexico and on the national stage to the three months he competes on the boys varsity cross country team.

“We run by choice, while all the other sports run for punishment,” Sam said. “There’s no downtime on a 10-mile run; it’s continuous running for three months at the fastest pace you can go. That’s the goal of the sport.”

To an outsider, those three months of consistent, grueling running on cross country courses would be enough exercise to warrant a nice long break. Sam’s body isn’t wired to do that, though.

“I have a gap between the cross country and track seasons where I have swim season,” Sam said. “That [gap] allows me to take a break from running and restart my training for faster-paced, shorter distances.”

All of those hours spent on courses and in the pool have molded Sam into a versatile track star. On any given day at a track meet, Sam could compete in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, 1600-meter, 4-by-400 relay, or the 4-by-800 relay. Out of all those events, his two bread-and-butter events are the 400-meter dash and 4-by-400 relay.

“I love to run the 400,” Sam said. “I’ve been running competitively since seventh grade while I still played soccer, and I always liked the demanding aspect of the 400.”

His claim to fame, an accolade that he himself regards as “one of the proudest moments” in his running career, came in 2019 when he, along with Patrick Ho, Kai Hagadorn, and Geoffrey Batterbee, smashed the 4-by-400 relay record by four seconds. Still today, it looks as if their unparalleled time of 3:24.49 minutes will be difficult to surpass, especially since the most recent attempt to break it was 11 seconds too short.

Sam prances down the final stretch of the 400-meter dash.

“Getting the school record for the 4×400 relay was one of my proudest moments as a high-school runner because it was more of a team-oriented accomplishment than an individual one,” Sam explained.

While Sam embraces the synergy aspect of relay competitions, his individual feats speak for themselves. The four-year veteran’s most prolific stretch as an individual came five months ago when he went on a postseason, record-breaking rampage.

Sam entered the 2021 OK White Conference meet as a clear favorite to make it far in the postseason. And again, as he has done since he was a freshman, he met those expectations and then some. 

“I think I had my best [individual] performance at states last season when I came in 20th place,” Sam said. “Going up against all of that talent was hard, but I felt really good about how I performed that day.”

Next season, Sam hopes to share the satisfaction of another state finals appearance with the rest of his teammates and mentor them as one of the essential senior leaders on the team. 

“I’m planning on leading our young team into regionals and hopefully to the [MHSAA] State Championship meet,” Sam said. “I feel honored to have represented FHC at states for the past few years, and I hope to do it again this year.”