Track and Field Preview: Rucker Has New Race to Conquer

By Terry Mosher, For the Kitsap Sun
March 24, 2007

It didn’t take Sam Rucker long to have an impact on the record book at Klahowya. The senior sprinter broke the school record in the open 400 meters his first time out this season, running it in 51.1 seconds at the Kitsap County Classic track and field meet that opened the season.

That mark blew away the old record of 52.7 seconds.

Coach Leo Suzuki had to smile. A 400 runner himself, he talked Rucker into expanding his track resume by including the quarter-mile event this season. Suzuki figured the trim and fit 5-foot-10, 155-pound Rucker would be stronger the longer he went.

It looks like Suzuki is right.

But it may take a little off Rucker’s track resume. Rucker is the defending Class 2A state champion in the 100 and 200. By adding the 400 it’s quite probable that Rucker may not defend his 100 title when the state meet is held May 25-26 at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

"I’m still going to do the 100 during the season, but if we have a good (1,600) relay team, I will drop it for the relay," said Rucker.

Suzuki, the fourth-year Klahowya coach who ran the 400 at Whitworth College in Spokane, pushed his star sprinter into the longer race because of the long-term benefits.

"This gets him ready for college," says Suzuki. "I think he will do better in the 400 in college."

Rucker has looked down that road. He is already has been academically accepted at Kansas and Washington State and just recently, after the Huskies expressed some interest, applied for entry to Washington.

The Kansas connection is a family thing. Father Rich Rucker played football for the Jayhawks from 1968-71 and still has friends back in Lawrence, Kan.

"John Riggins and I were in the came class," says Rich Rucker. "I always have told people I played with John Riggins — way behind him."

His son was a football player until last season. Sam Rucker suffered a grade-one concussion two years ago, and he was warned if he suffered another, he should give up football. The first game of his senior football season, Rucker was concussed, and his football career came to an abrupt end.

"I really love defense, and I miss football a lot," said Rucker, who played running back and cornerback for Klahowya, "but this (track) is where my future is."

Last spring at the state meet, Rucker won the 100 in 11.23 and the 200 in 22.22. That got him some notice, and if he continues to improve his time in the 400, who knows what college recruiter will come calling?

"Coach has told me that there will be other colleges coming out of the woodwork, but I can’t see myself going anywhere else (other than KU, WSU or UW)," said Rucker.

Having a great year in the 400 might help him get there. Suzuki believes Rucker can get under 50 seconds, which would make him a contender at state.

"If he can run in the high 48s or 49s he should win it," said Suzuki. "His 200-meter time is 22.2 and just by looking at that, he should at least go under 50."