Sam Rodman has been running almost since he was knee high to the proverbial grasshopper.
Nearly 10 years later, the Liberty High School senior distance ace finds himself headed to Princeton University for his collegiate career.
Rodman burst onto the scene as a junior when he won the 2019 indoor state title in the 1,000 meters. Although the pandemic wiped out his outdoor season four months ago, it didn’t hamper his profile as an elite recruit.
A top-notch student, Rodman wanted a school with a strong academic tradition, with the potential to advance himself as a runner. His third goal was a pleasant surrounding.
Rodman took the initiative with an early summer email to Princeton cross country and distance coach Jason Vigilante, whose Tigers won the Ivy League indoor title in March just before the pandemic hit, and have four Ivy cross country crowns in Vigilante’s eight years.
"I was really excited when he called. Coach Vigilante and I kicked it off from the beginning," said Rodman, who had also spoken to coaches at Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Northeastern, Georgetown, Columbia and Harvard.
He reduced the field to Princeton, Harvard and Virginia before selecting the Tigers. Harvard was the runner-up.
Rodman said he long has dreamed of attending an Ivy League school, and Princeton checks all his boxes. Many Princeton coaches are former Olympians. Plus, it’s located in a picturesque New Jersey suburb about 45 miles north of Philadelphia.
"I was so excited at the opportunity to be part of and contribute to a winning team while living at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world," he said, noting the Tigers' 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes are steeped with distance talent.
He hopes to contribute, perhaps on a potent 3,200-meter or distance medley relay as well as individual middle distance events, and earn an NCAA championship berth.
Andrea Rodman, his mother, is a long-time runner, and she convinced Sam to run when he was a second grader.
"I absolutely hated it," he says now. "But it quickly turned into something I loved to do with her."
Rodman even ran his first 5,000-meter race that year, and she is his cross country and distance coach at Liberty. "[So] I still get to run with her all the time," he said.
By the time he reached middle school, he began to think long-term. "I love running, and I have for a long time, so I knew it was something I wanted to keep doing competitively for as long as I can," he said.
Rodman began his junior year by capturing the Northwestern District cross country gold medal and was 10th in the state meet. He burst onto the national scene last December when he recorded the nation's fastest time of 2:28 in the 1,000 in a large indoor meet in Lynchburg.
He went on to sweep the district, region and state titles in the event. He was the favorite in the outdoor 800-meter championship but the pandemic forced all sports to be canceled.
"This school year, my goal is to win another two state championships," he began, saying he's out to for a substantial cut in his cross country time. "Academically, I want to finish strong and enjoy my last few classes in high school as much as I can."
Rodman expects to enter Princeton's prestigious School of Public and International Affairs and major in political science or international relations with an eye on law school.