By Dominique Smith - Florida MileSplit Correspondent
Samuel Austin has two things in mind when he steps up to the starting line for a race: to win and to leave everything he has on the track.
"I really want to win, but I also feel like if I don't give it my all, then what's the point," he said.
The junior from Oviedo High School admits that he throws up after every race he runs. For him, the vomit is validation that his efforts were not in vain.
"If I give it my all, then I'm going to throw up every time," he said.
Austin consistently delivered elite performances despite the shortened season. In only his second year in the sport, Austin recorded a new personal best in the 800m, running a time of 1:54.70 in late January at the Embry Riddle Outdoor Challenge, which is still the fastest time in the state and the 12th fastest in the country. Austin also had the 10th fastest time in the state in the 400m, running a time of 48.66, which gave him the Oviedo High School record in the event.
Austin was formerly a soccer player who decided to run cross country and track and field his sophomore year. Originally, his coach Dave Tibbetts thought that he would make a fantastic 3200m runner for the Lions, which Tibbetts admits that he still would if he decided to try it out. But instead, he put Austin in the 4x800 relay.
"I like to have the athletes try different things during track and field," he said. "I don't want them to get stuck in an event and burn out. So even though I thought Sam would make a terrific 3200 runner, I decided to throw him in a 4x800 at the first track and field meet of 2019, just to see what he could do in an 800."
Austin's performance in the relay was so impressive, that it solidified his spot on the relay team.
"Sam ran his leg in the 4x800 in 2:01 in that early February meet," he said. "So much for the 3200... I had just found my 4th for the 4x800."
From there, the quartet of Austin, Mamush Galloway, Kayamo Galloway and Angel Vicioso, who Austin admits that he looks up to, not only won that early season race, but eventually won the state championship as well back in 2019.
2019 FHSAA 4x800m Finals Heat 2
Despite the cancellation of the track and field season due to COVID-19, Austin is using the success that he obtained this season to motivate him for his senior year.
"Next season I'm going to be hungrier," he said. "I really want to get those medals at states."
Austin's success on the track comes from the work that he puts in during practice. He says that he goes as hard as he can during practice because it simulates racing. Coach Tibbetts believes that his work ethic is his biggest strength.
"He is an extremely hard worker," he said. "And although he has great athletic ability, his strength is not the talent he has as a runner, but his incredible work ethic."
Kris Austin, Samuel's mother, sees the potential that he has in the sport and knows that he's capable to do great things. She finds joy knowing that he's doing something that he loves.
"It's exciting to see your child do something they love and find something they love," she said. "Even though it took a while, he's really happy on the track. It makes us happy that he found something he loves doing and wants to keep doing for as long as possible."
Tibbetts believes that the invaluable qualities that Austin has not only makes him a great leader, but will help him reach the goals that he's set for himself.
"I have been very fortunate to coach runners like Kayamo Galloway, Mamush Galloway and Angel Vicioso, but Sam is absolutely a coach's dream," he said. "Not only is he extremely coachable, he is intensely focused and incredibly smart. He knows how to listen to his body and back off when necessary or push a little harder when I ask him to. Those are qualities that also make him a great leader. Once Sam sets a goal, nothing is going to stop him."