With the announcement of the Gatorade Players of the Year for track and field yesterday, the most prestigious awards for the 2018 spring season have finally been handed out. As every press release for each award states, the POY honor is given out each year to an athlete who is "not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field." With yesterday's announcement, Gatorade has bestowed the yearly honor in the state of Minnesota on two of Minnesota's most remarkable and outstanding athletes - Emily Kompelien of Edina on the girls side, and Samuel Moore of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale for the boys.
When Sam Moore swept the discus and shot put titles at the 2017 State Championships, it was something of a surprise considering fellow junior Mitchell Weber had done the same thing the year before as just a sophomore, and had tossed the state's third-best discus throw ever a few weeks prior. But Moore (who is home-schooled and competes on Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale's track team which his dad coaches) came out on top at season's end to set up a showdown between the two throwing sensations for their senior year.
"To come out and beat him in both was fun, and I knew that I could and to prove that there was a real rivalry there and that there was going to be one there senior year, so that was pretty cool."
It was hardly Moore's first year of State success, or his first time facing Weber. They first competed against each other in 8th grade at a junior high elite meet in Kasson-Mantorville. "I went down there thinking I would walk away with two wins, but then here comes this guy from Saint Clair, and he just destroyed me in the shot put by three of four feet, just blowing me away. But I got him in the discus. So then here at State and the Elite meet both, he got me in the discus, and I beat him in the shot, so that was cool to trade places with him over the years."
Moore has qualified for State in the discus every year since he was an 8th-grader, and had already finished in the top seven in the event twice before his win in 2017. He was also a 2016 qualifier in the shot put, but unfortunately did not fare as successfully as he would eventually, fouling on all three of his throws.
However, he entered his senior season under less-than-ideal circumstances. Bursitis in his shoulder kept him from lifting to the extent that he wanted over the winter, and he didn't become fully healthy until just before the season started. The ample amount of snow did not help matters either to make up for lost time in his training. But it didn't take long for Moore to pick up where he left off. Hitting 59-4 in his very first indoor meet was a huge confidence boost for him, as was hitting 61-9.5 in his third meet.
In total, Moore went 14-for-14 in winning shot put competitions, never once throwing under 56-7, and throwing 59 feet or more on ten occasions. He swept the Hamline Elite Meet and State championships in the shot put, and with his final throw of the season, he broke into the top ten shot putters in state history.
"Winning the shot put at State was my favorite memory of the year. It was really the first time I had had competition in a long time, and it was cool to have that feeling of, 'Oh, he threw two inches over me, now I have to beat him.' And going up on my last throw and thinking that this was my last chance, I actually had no faith in myself whatsoever to actually do it. But I actually did it, so that was awesome."
If there was one disappointment to Moore's season, it was not being able to reach the all-time records in both the shot and discus that he had set out to break at the start of the season. And he admits that his performance in the discus was more inconsistent than he would like, and in trying to focus on the discus in practice, his shot put suffered a bit of a slump mid-season. But thanks to his toss of 194-1.5 the week before State, Moore now sits in sixth place on Minnesota's all-time list for the discus, making him one of just four throwers to occupy a top-ten standing in both the shot put and discus. And to top everything else off, Moore was also named Minnesota's first-ever winner of the Coaches Association's Mr. Track & Field award. "Winning that award was incredible. I don't really think it has hit home yet, and I don't know it if will, but that was an honor. I did not expect to get it."
Of course, Gatorade's qualifications for their Player of the Year Awards goes beyond just track performances, and Moore has success beyond sports as well. Owning a GPA of 3.55 and volunteering as both a camp counselor and a youth throws coach, he will be a scholarship athlete at North Dakota State next season in both football and track (he was both an offensive and defensive star on Verndale's nine-man football team). He's already been in communication with his future coaches, and they are already working on ways for him to improve. "I've already thrown the 16-pound college shot over 52 feet, and that was with gliding, but coach St. Claire at NDSU wants me to switch from gliding to spinning, so we'll see how that goes. I threw some with spinning the other day and was throwing pretty close to 50 feet, and I haven't spun in two years, so I'm pretty satisfied with where I'm at. And I'm excited with switching to the 2-kg college discus because it forces you to have better form, and my form in high school was not the best."
Sam would like to thank...
"I would like to thank my parents for always being there, and always pushing me to do my best, and always being interested even though I was 20 or 30 feet ahead of everyone. They probably thought it was boring by the time I was a senior (I know I would have if I would have had to watch to all), so a huge thanks to them."