Over the summer 7-year-old Sam King laced up his tennis shoes and began running alongside his father, North Stokes women’s track coach Rodney King.
“I was helping the Piney Grove Middle and Lawsonville Elementary PTOs with the Runnin’ for Kids 5K. I told Sam about it and he said he would like to run in it, so he did and he loved it,” King said. “He ran the 5K in 34 minutes without hardly any training. After that he was hooked. He started running about two to three days a week with the track team and we ran in the Feed Stokes 5K a couple of weeks after and improved by over two minutes.”
Since then the second grader has competed in three USATF Junior Olympic Track meets and qualified for regionals by placing 13th in the 1500 meters. At the end of July he finished third place in the 1500 at the Russell Blunt East Coast Invitational at Durham County Stadium.
“We began training for the USATF Junior Olympics around the end of May. I became a certified USATF Track & Field Official earlier this year and one of my requirements to keep that certification was to help officiate the NC USATF Association Youth Meet at A&T University in Greensboro,” King said. “I noticed they had age group races and asked Sam if he would like to give it a try and he immediately said yes.”
The father and son began training five to six days a week, running up to three miles a day. Workouts consisted of running 400’s or 800’s, distance training, and light recovery.
“I would run with him on the track workout days and his mom would run with him on the distance days,” King said. “Sam has been going with me to track and cross country meets since he was four years old. He’s always loved being around it. I love to see him run and how excited he gets with his training. He’s very dedicated and wants to really succeed at this.”
King said his son listens to his advice most of the time, but coaching your own child is completely different than runners at the high school level.
“I go to Coach Jimmy Dillard for a lot of advice,” he said.
Since running over the summer King’s son has improved over 15 seconds in the 1500.
“His stride has gotten better, his form has improved and he has improved his mile time by over a minute. He’s actually running with my third best girl cross country runner.”
There’s no slowing down for the second grader. He’s slated to compete in his first cross country meet Saturday at the Pioneer Clash of Classes in Boone and will run in the Elementary / Middle School Race. He’s increased his mileage to four miles a day and averages 20 to 24 miles a week.
“Most of the week is base runs to work on his endurance and other days we’re doing track workouts consisting of anything from repeat 400’s all the way up to repeat 1200’s.”
The coach said before seeing his son compete, he would have suggested parents wait until middle school to get their children on a running regiment.
“After seeing Sam and all these other kids his age and under run at the big track meets I would say to start as soon as they show an interest in it, and when they’re disciplined enough to commit to the training. Doing this has helped Sam be more self-disciplined and more goal oriented,” King said.
“I just want him to do his best and enjoy what he’s doing.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.