Pushin’ P, Pushin’ Purdue
DHS Senior Sam Roberts signs with Purdue University to run Track and Cross Country
June 10, 2023
You’ve undoubtedly seen the same runner across all four seasons, his lengthy strides taking him throughout the streets of West Dearborn. From Dearborn High School, to Ford Field, to Henry Ford College, DHS senior Samuel Roberts is frequently training to be the best possible runner he can be. As a four-time cross country state qualifier, outdoor track state qualifier, and two time indoor track state qualifier, Roberts has accomplished feats that label him as one of the elite runners in DHS history.
With passion being found from the third grade, Roberts aims to continue his running career even post high school after signing his letter of intent with Purdue University on March 24, 2023. In West Lafayette, Indiana, Roberts will run track and cross country in the Big Ten Conference and plans to redshirt to extend his athletic career.
Roberts journey started due to inspiration from his friends that were runners as well, but Roberts did not initially dominate the competition.
“My best friend, DHS alumni and D1 runner Charlie Frank, joined the Dearborn Track Club and I joined to hang out with him,” Roberts said. “I was terrible at first, we’d do a half-mile warm up and I’d take all of practice to walk/jog it. I ended up staying only because of my friends but I’m glad I did.”
Charlie Frank, cross country and track athlete at the University of California – San Diego, recounts his relationship and training with Roberts from when they were kids.
“Me and Sam are super close, he was right up the street from me so we were always hanging out and having fun, and then we both got into running at the same time,” Frank said. “It was great because we were training partners and we were able to work together just to become better at the sport and we both loved it.”
Roberts’ love for running, however, also stemmed from simply playing on the playground.
“But my motive to run came from the feeling of being on the playground chasing friends at recess,” Roberts said. “Distance running seemed to break down fun recess games on the playground into its purest form. To this day that’s still my favorite thing about running.”
As this interest turned into a hobby, Roberts started to pick up intense habits that would eventually lead to success in running.
“During the fall of third grade, my coach had a talk with me, he convinced me that stopping during a run was quitting so from that point on I never stopped or walked,” Roberts said.
Roberts quickly became obsessed with getting in the best shape he possibly could to run his fastest.
“I started running every day of the year; it got to the point where I’d feel guilty if I didn’t go on a run, and today running every day isn’t an option or choice it’s just something that happens regardless of weather or holidays,” Roberts said.
Boys cross country and track coach Philip Mahar was of great assistance when it came to perfecting Roberts’ running career.
“I’m lucky to have Coach Mahar who introduced me to the idea that there’s a science to training and that showed me how to tangibly pave the way to any running goal,” Roberts said. “But in spite of all that intense stuff, it’s still fun.”
Mahar, Roberts coach for all four years of high school, commented on the significance of Purdue not only for athletics, but for academics as well.
“I am very proud that Sam will be going to Purdue next year,” Mahar said. “They have an excellent engineering school and track team and Sam has worked very hard for this opportunity.”
Mahar also said Sam continued to shed more and more time off records he had before coming to DHS.
“Sam came to Dearborn High with some very nice accomplishments and he still has seen great improvement,” Mahar said. “His top end speed is much higher and he has improved his endurance. His time in the 1600 meters has improved over 35 seconds.”
Purdue Head Cross Country Coach John Oliver said upon meeting with Roberts, he immediately seemed to fit Purdue’s needs and the overall direction of the team.
“Sam from the beginning when we started recruiting him last fall, he brought a lot of high energy,” Oliver said. “We talked a lot about the process and team culture we were looking to build and add to. That stuff seemed to resonate with him.”
Oliver said Sam’s personality, work ethic, and dedication was factored into consideration.
“He understood that getting better is not something that happens over night. It’s a process that takes initial actions over a long period of time,” Oliver said. “From his background, we felt there was a lot of perseverance which we value.”
As an experienced collegiate runner himself, Frank is looking forward to seeing how Roberts can benefit from the extra opportunities at Purdue.
“I’m really excited to see what he’s going to be able to do once he’s there and able to just do running in school and pour his heart into it because that’s what he did in high school,” Frank said. “So it’s going to be super cool to see what he can do at a collegiate level where the competition is so much more elevated and you have crazy teams and training and access to so many more resources.”
Despite the results, Roberts wants to see how far his work ethic can take him.
“Right now I don’t care if I end up doing anything crazy like winning national titles or the Olympics,” Roberts said. “But I want to work as hard as an Olympian just to see what happens, and I know I’ll have fun with it regardless of the outcome.”