Bill Cosby once said, " I don't know the key to success, but I know the key to failure is trying to please everyone." Gaither high school junior hurdler Samson Moore can relate to this quote all too well. At last year's Steinbrenner Invitational many spectators, athletes, and coaches arrived at the University of South Florida looking to get a glimpse of the sophomore at the next great hurdler out of Florida.
After all, Moore finished second in the 110 hurdles at the state meet the previous year and in the summer before his sophomore year he won gold at the AAU National Club Championship in the 400 hurdles. The expectations from the outside were that he would compete to win the 110 and 300 hurdles at the state meet and the elite field at USF would be the perfect stage to announce his presence to the world and stake his claim as king of the hurdle world. That was the expectations from the outside.
When Moore arrived at the meet he was definitely ready to compete but to everybody's surprise, except those few on the inside, his program would consist of many events but none of them would include a hurdle. Instead, Moore was entered in the 100 and 200 meters. You could hear the displeasure permeating from the stands, "That white boy is going to get smoked," Others mumbled to the person next to them, "He's not going to be able to compete with these elite sprinters." Coaches thought about all of the points Gaither would be forfeiting. "Maybe they are just going to wait until the districts and then let him run hurdles."
Despite the comments, the plan had already been put into motion. Moore was going to spend his sophomore year doing something he has never done, work on his speed. He knew that this would most likely mean that he was giving up a chance to win a state title this year but he was thinking about the long term. In fact, this wasn't something unusual in the running world. Olympic medalist Gail Deavers and Terrence Trammell to name a couple would routinely take time off from their main event to work on their speed and keep the wear and tear off of their legs.
The problem was that you didn't normally see this type of strategy implemented so early in a hurdlers career. Early in the season many of the skeptics seemed justified as Moore was making finals in big meets, but not really competing for wins. What they obviously didn't notice was that Moore was steadily improving his times and by the end of the season he was right where he was the year before, in the state finals, in the final heat, but this time it was in the 200 meters and most of those elite sprinters from the Steinbrenner were watching from the stands.
No, Moore did not pull off a victory that day, but what he did was give himself a new found confidence in his speed and power. This year with a return to the hurdles he has exhibited the technique that made him a champion in his freshman year and the speed he exhibited during his sophomore campaign (100 and 200 meter times that would win many big local meets this year).
Moore will begin his quest for the double that everyone wanted him to chase last year, at Leto high school on Wednesday night in his district meet, but he does it this year with the understanding that his goals are clearly more lofty than state titles. The Olympics are next year and before you say that it's a pipe dream, keep in mind that his gold medal time in the 400 hurdles almost two years ago was six-tenths of a second away from the Olympic qualifying time and that was before he began doing speed work.
Lofty but anything is possible when you focus on your goals and not pleasing others. Like Bill Cosby said, that's a key to failing. One couldn't imagine Moore failing.