WATERLOO — Sam Tudor was just looking forward to competing when he stepped outside Waterloo West’s hallways and onto the Hi Covey Relays track in Ames during a rare, picture-perfect Thursday afternoon.
Last week, West High’s senior sprinter ended up serving notice that he’s found the speed to run with the state’s elite. Tudor broke 22 seconds in the open 200 and even stunned himself by clocking sub-11 in the 100 with times of 21.99 and 10.93, respectively, that rank among Iowa’s top five this spring.
“Honestly, I never thought I’d break 11,” said Tudor, who can recall running only three competitive open 100s prior to his senior year. “I felt like under 22, I might do it a little later in the season, but it was definitely a big accomplishment for me.”
Always quick out of the blocks, Tudor has played major roles within West’s sprint relays in recent years. He was the lone junior among a quartet of three seniors that captured Class 4A’s state title in the 4x200 by defeating a Western Dubuque team that edged them for the championship previously at Drake.
A returning sixth-place finisher in 4A’s open 400, Tudor also helped West get off to a strong start during its runner-up effort to Cedar Falls in the 4x400 relay that capped the state meet.
“He’s kind of finding a different role now,” West coach Matt Mostek said of his team captain. “Last year he had the best starts out of everybody, even those veteran guys. We’d trust him running that first leg because we knew he was going to get us a really good start and get us in the race from the get-go.”
Tudor, who has also competed in cross country the past two seasons to stay in shape, has developed into a dedicated runner. He’s a consistent presence for a student-led Polar Bear training club for track athletes who don’t compete in a winter sport.
The group spends the four winter months training inside West’s hallways in addition to investing time in the weight room. A stretch of hallway about 150 yards long has allowed sprinters to get up to speed before official workouts even begin.
Tudor is now passing down lessons he’s learned working alongside last year’s seniors — including open 200-meter champion Tayshaun Cooper — to a youthful team in which more than 60 percent of the roster is in its first season of high school competition.
“I value his input so much, I’ll run things by him and see what he thinks,” Mostek said. “We talk about training all the time. He always asks if there’s anything extra he can be doing.
“He cares so much, he doesn’t want just success for him. He wants success for our whole team. He knows how good a freshman and sophomore class that we have. He’s really try to show them everything that he can.”
First inspired to give track a shot by his dad, John Tudor, who ran for Ankeny High School, Sam Tudor admits he didn’t develop a passion for the sport until making a trip to the Drake Relays his freshman year as a relay alternate.
“It was 40-some degrees and it wasn’t sunny, so it was pretty miserable,” Tudor recalls, reflecting on his first trip to the blue oval. “There were still thousands of people there to just watch track. I was in awe how fast people were running, how many people were there to watch them. It just kind of had me shocked.”
Currently tied for the state’s fourth-fastest time in the 100, Tudor says it would be a thrill to find himself in that event final at next week’s Drake Relays.
“I remember watching my sophomore year when Tayshaun was in it,” Tudor said. “I had chills watching it. Just being there would be cool.”
A versatile sprinter who has run everything from the 100 to 800 in competition this season, Tudor is driven to continue his career at the collegiate level. He’s once again out of the blocks fast this senior season.
“The fact that’s he had quick success in the 100 is just another testament to his training and dedication,” Mostek said. “Even though it’s a race that he’s not really done much in the past, he still shows that he can work hard and achieve.”