Athlete Spotlight: Gatorade Iowa Runner of the Year Sam Schillinger Signs with Arkansas

Sam Schillinger of Cedar Falls, who was named the Gatorade State Boys Runner of the Year for Iowa earlier this week, signed his letter of intent yesterday to become a Razorback. After a great cross country season and a runner-up finish at State, both individually and with the Cedar Falls Boys XC team, Sam is rearing up for a great track season before heading to Fayetteville this fall. Continue below to see how he made his decision, what hopes he has for this upcoming track season, and more!

What inspired you to start running?
I owe my running start to my parents. As a child, my parents were always on the go surrounding me with an environment keen for running. My dad trained for and traveled around the country competing in marathons throughout the year, and my mom ran all kinds of local races. It only felt natural for me to start running as soon as I could move my legs. I saw the type of lifestyle that my parents were living as runners and I knew that I wanted to have that, too. The amazing running community of Cedar Falls also inspired me to take on running. Before I really was serious about it, I casually ran local races, and I met so many wonderful people. Seeing all the people at these races gave me a thrill and I fell in love with the sport right then. I discovered that I could push myself and have fun at the same time. I saw the success that my parents were having and how happy running made them, and before I knew it, I was off and running and could not be stopped.

What traditions/superstitions do you have for races? 
I don't like to admit it but I am quite superstitious when it comes to races. For one, I like to keep my meals similar before a big race. I'm a pasta lover and I get my hands on whatever pasta I can the night before a race. I love the whole idea of carb loading, even if I am only racing a 5k, it makes me happy, and my body responds well. I also usually eat a bagel the morning of a race. I can't remember when it started, but I have a special pair of socks with mini tricycles on them that I wear for EVERY race. It's funny because they are actually biking socks, but they work for me, and I'm not changing them now that I've made it this far. They are getting quite holey though, so we'll see if they make it through track. I like to listen to music before I race to get me pumped up. Honestly, I've realized that there is no perfect playlist for me, I just listen to whatever I'm really feeling that week to get me fired up. When I said I was superstitious, I wasn't lying, I wear the same warm-up clothes for pretty much every race. I have a special outfit that I like to warm-up in, I like to keep it consistent.  One last tradition that I actually stole from my teammate is eating a rice cake an hour before the race. Who knows if this actually does anything, but the tradition lives on. 

You were consistently ranked in the top 3 of the Heartland Soles and IATC cross country rankings throughout the XC season. How did you use that pressure to inspire your races and a great 2nd-place finish at State?
Knowing that I was ranked highly gave me confidence heading into races. I used this to fuel me and to remind me that I was exactly where I wanted to be. It wasn't too much pressure because I knew that the rankings did not mean everything, and that I just needed to trust my training.

After a great cross country season, what are your hopes for this upcoming track season?
I have some high goals for the upcoming track season, but it's senior year and I feel faster than I ever have before at this point. I would love to break nine in the 3200, as I know some other guys that would too. I think it's reasonable and if I keep my focus, I can smash it. I also want to be a state champion in this event, as I was third last year and it is my time to go for it. I would like to be sub 4:10 and win state in the 1600, I think I have built up my speed and turnover since last year and am ready to really kick. I want to help my team and contribute in the 800 and 4x800 as well. I want to do whatever I can do to help my team get the most points at state. Besides this, I want to compete in some big postseason races, and try to make a statement at the national level. I am excited to try and do some big things this year. Lastly, I want to have fun with my senior season. I love my team and can't wait to get better with everyone!

How did you pick Arkansas for your collegiate studies and competing?
When I went on my visit to Arkansas, I had narrowed down my search to Arkansas and Columbia University in New York. I knew that Coach Bucknam was doing great things down at Arkansas and I knew he was an amazing coach. I felt that comfort in choosing Arkansas because I had confidence that I would be in good hands with Coach Bucknam and the coaching staff there. When I went down to campus, I immediately felt welcomed and I saw a place that I could call home for the next couple of years. Everyone was friendly, the facilities were amazing, and the academic system included everything that fit my standards. The honors college was beautiful and I really felt that I could excel athletically while getting an outstanding education at Arkansas. Aside from those features, the fit was perfect. I got to meet and hang out with a great group of guys on the team. I saw some awesome potential friends and teammates and I just could not see myself anywhere else. My gut feeling was the biggest thing and the feel of the campus and Fayetteville did something to me that made me fall in love with everything.

What excites you most about becoming a Razorback?
What excites me most is stepping into an environment of phenomenal students and athletes, alike, and developing there and challenging myself in this new environment.

How have your family and friends reacted to your commitment to Arkansas?
My family has been completely supportive and excited with me. My friends and everyone in school have been congratulating me and showing that they are super excited for me. My friends and family have helped me feel celebrate, rejoice, and feel proud after making this big decision. I am so thankful for the wonderful support from everyone around me. 

What majors interest you?
I have always been interested in biology. I am possibly thinking about pairing this with another study such as philosophy, pyschology, or anthropology as well. I am still undecided, but I know that the advisers at Arkansas will help me find my passion.

What goals do you have for your collegiate running career?
Honestly, I haven't thought about this much, but I can say that I want to compete as best as I can to contribute for Arkansas and grow as an individual.

How did you feel when you found out you were named the Gatorade State Runner of the Year for Iowa?
I was elated to say the least. I knew that I was a candidate for the Gatorade Player of the Year, but I did not really know what that entailed. When I saw the email, it did not register to me at first that it was real. It took me a moment to process everything. I was with my mom and sisters, and we honestly could not believe it. It was a moment of pure joy. I then realized how grateful I am for the opportunity, and what an honor it is to receive the award, and represent Iowa like this. I take pride in the fact that the award recognizes athletic excellence, as well as academic excellence, and character and community involvement. That holistic aspect really means a lot to me and makes me feel good about all the work that I have put in to be who I am. 

You can keep up with Sam's high school stats on his Athlete Profile here!