Sam Munsterman is 13 years old, just finished 7th grade at Crescent City Grade School, and is very involved with extracurriculars and sports. When you meet Sam, you just know what type of kid he is: humble, modest, respectful of his elders, caring and – for the most part – quiet. His teachers admire his work ethic, his coaches enjoy his dedication and he is never without friends.

What you wouldn’t know about Sam is: He is the IESA champion in the boys’ 7A long jump event of track and field. That’s right … state champion … right here from a town with a population just over 600 (according to the 2010 census).

Sam is a member of the Cougar track/field team – which is a sports co-op between CCGS and St. Paul’s Lutheran School, Woodworth. In addition to track, he participates in band, speech, cross country, basketball and Scholastic Bowl. From those activities, he received a Judges’ Choice Award at regional in speech and was a state qualifier in cross country. Last October he took part in the IESA Cross Country State Finals and finished 58th out of a field of 231 with a time of 12:00.4. For track/field, he was a state qualifier who took 19th in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.98 seconds and 16th in the 200-meter dash with a time of 26.99 seconds.

During the week of the state competition, Sam broke the Iroquois County track meet record in the long jump with a distance of 17’10”. He noted, “My state distance of 18’4.75” helps me hold the 7th grade co-op record. It is my personal record. It couldn’t have happened at a better place – the state finals!” He also holds the school co-op record for the 7th grade boys 200 with a time of 24.3.

Sam noted, “In cross country I am the fastest boy and highest place finisher at the IESA Cross Country State Finals in the history of our school’s program. I was 58th out of all the male runners that day for 6th-8th graders. My personal record is 11:36. There were a lot of runners in one race. It’s intimidating to line up with something like 275 runners on one line! I told Coach (Aaron) Hamilton before the race that my goal was to place 100th. I was really excited when I found out how high I really did place. Some of the runners I ran against had legs as long as I am tall.”

Sam was asked to reflect on his time at the state meet – to share his feelings about the event and tell who he shared the experience with: “My personal record happened down at the state track meet. There were three flights of jumpers that afternoon. To make the finals, I needed to be in the top 8. Once I made the top 8, I was guaranteed a medal. The first round of finals the top seed jumped 18’. The next jumper tied the 18 feet. My jump was 17’8”. This first jump left me really frustrated, mad and disappointed all at once.

He continued, “That’s when I realized just getting a ‘medal’ was not what I wanted – I wanted to win it!! My strategy at the county tournament was to use distance in my approach so I figured – what do I have to lose? So I sprinted as fast as I could and just jumped like I normally do and landed it! When I saw that it was above 18 feet I was so excited! I had to hold the excitement in as we waited for all of the jumpers to jump their third and final jump. Eighteen feet was the closest jump to mine. I could tell from Coach Hamilton’s reactions that it was good enough to win it!

He said, “This was Coach Hamilton’s last season coaching us so I am glad that he is leaving with this memory! I was so lucky to have my friends and family with me to watch. That night we went back to the hotel to swim, eat pizza and get ready for the next day’s events.”

Lots of athletes seem to have a “routine” or something they do before their events which bring them luck. Some wear a certain pair of shoes, some carry a lucky charm – it varies among athletes. Sam was asked if he had a “game day” routine he follows that seems to carry him through the event: “To be honest, no. I stretch like every other competitor and drinks lots of water. The funny thing is that when I jump I don’t mark my steps like most people … I just jump.”

Of all the sports he takes part in, cross country and track are his favorites. “Each of them reflect the amount of time and effort that has been put into that event,” he said. “Because they are not a true team sport, no one can change the outcome of the finish but me.” He said he got interested in running “when I watched highlights from races (marathons and track events) on the news. It really pushed me to join cross country.”

Coach Hamilton is quite proud of Sam and his accomplishments: “He really hit his stride the second half of the season. His jumping technique really came together towards the stretch of meets.” He reflected on Sam’s position of third going into the (state) finals. “He definitely was more relaxed once he knew he would be in the finals and that just made him more confident in his jumps. That confidence was shown with two of the three finals jumps 18’ or better.”

Sam noted the highlight of the just-finished sports season is “winning the state championship title and making friends from other schools at the meet.”

Coach Hamilton finished by saying, “I am so proud of Sam and his accomplishments this track season.”

Asked about a moment he’ll always remember, Sam said, “I will never forget my county tournament jump at Watseka. I was being silly with my last jump. I decided to double my running distance. I started my approach from the opposite sand pit and ran as hard as I could and jumped. Somehow I managed to break the county record just out of experimentation!”

Sam was also asked if there was any special training which might have helped him break the records. He replied, “Coach Hamilton hosts a family running club during the summer, two days a week. That helps us stay in shape during the off season.”

He continued, “Cross country transitioned into basketball. One of the benefits of being from a small school is that it takes everyone to make a team. We all get lots of playing time. This helps our endurance in other sports, like track and field.

“All of my classmates are a team on the basketball court, on the track, and in the classroom. We cheer each other on regardless if it is scholastic bowl, speech, basketball, volleyball or spelling contest. That is not special training but knowing there is a supportive family rooting you on to do and be the best helps,” he concluded.

So, with the summer break just started, will Sam do anything this summer to work on helping him retain his Champion title? “I am attending a running camp in June,” he said.

In addition to all the school activities he takes part in, he is also a member of the Danforth Blue Ribbon 4H Club. “We show sheep during the summer months at local, regional and state competitions,” he said.

Sam is the son of Josh and Heidi Munsterman with a sister, Sara, who just completed first grade at CCGS. His proud grandparents are Brian and Laura Hofbauer of Martinton and Ardell and Linda Munsterman of Onarga.