Tola Amusan doesn’t hesitate with his answer.
All of that speed that his son Sam Amusan possesses, it came from him, Sam’s father.
In fact, the Nigerian-born Tola says he could still beat Sam in race if the circumstances were right.
“I used to play soccer,” Tola said, joy in his voice. “I am a speed guy. If you put a ball in front of me and Sam, I could still beat him. But I need a ball.”
Sam doesn’t need a ball. Not anymore. All the former youth football player needs is a track. The Rochester Century incoming senior proved that once again this past July 4-7 in Fargo, N.D. That’s where he starred in the USATF Region 8 Junior Olympic Outdoor Track and Field Championships, finishing second in the 100 and 200.
It was a showing that easily qualified him for something even bigger. The end of this month, Tola will be accompanying Sam to Sacramento, Calif., where his oldest of three children will be competing in the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
“Sam and I will have fun in California,” Tola said. “I enjoy watching the competition; I like the spirit of it. It’s fun to see Sam compete and how he carries himself. He just wants to keep improving and challenging himself. California, that will be the biggest stage he’s ever been on.”
Sam’s athletic career began with football front and center. He played at the youth level in Rochester from fourth through eighth grade, continually leaving would-be tacklers in the dust with his sprinter’s speed.
But Tola and his wife Amen put an end to that. They reasoned that football was too dangerous and that Sam should instead put all of his athletic energies into the sport he’d obviously excel at, track.
Sam took them up on that — and then some. The escalation of it kicked in this last year. That’s when Sam went from a guy who enjoyed being good at track to wanting to be great at it.
“I had a summer job before,” Sam said. “But I don’t want work to consume my life. I’m excited about working on my track. For a while, it felt nice just to be good at it. But I don’t want to settle for that anymore.”
So he doesn’t. Amusan has turned himself into a five-days-per-week track guy, year round. That includes this summer when he does sprint work for an hour those days, then follows that up with 90 minutes of weight lifting.
Amusan started heading in that grinding direction last summer and hasn’t stopped.
“I put in the time, and my goal always is to keep beating my times,” Amusan said. “And there are a lot of people trying to beat me, too. So I can’t just sit around. I can’t be satisfied.”
The payoff of that diligence has been obvious. Amusan has added 10 pounds of muscle from a year ago, up to 180 pounds, as he’s shaped himself into one of the top couple of sprinters in the state.
All of that work helped him finish second in the 200 at the high school state track and field meet in early June. His Century 4x100 relay team also landed second.
Then there is the best measure of Amusan’s improvement, his times. As a sophomore, he ran a 22.76 200. In the recent Region 8 meet, he shaved his best all the way down to 21.61.
His top 100 time as a sophomore was 11.20. This spring, he clobbered that, too, with a 10.87.
“I feel blessed,” said Amusan, who this summer also trains with the Park Flyers Track and Field Club (St. Louis Park). “The results have shown what I’ve done.”
Amusan wants the results to keep reflecting his work. He’ll get another chance at that this July 22-28 in Sacramento.
“I won't worry about what places I take,” Amusan said. “I only hope to get more (personal records). I just want to get faster.”