‘Coaching genius’: Men’s track and field head coach Fred Samara announces retirement after 46 years


On June 27, beloved Fred Samara announced his retirement after 46 seasons as head coach of the men’s track and field team, William M. Weaver, Jr. ’34. Samara’s legacy will be remembered by Tiger followers who retire with more championships than any other coach in Princeton history.

“Princeton Athletics has one of the strongest teams in any Ivy League sport, and it’s all thanks to Coach Samara,” junior thrower Avery Schneson said in the Daily Princetonian. told to

Samara has led the team to 51 heptagonal team championships and 502 individual championships with Ivy League victories. In 2017, he was inducted into the National Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame for his unparalleled achievements.

“Track is not an individual sport for me,” Samara told Prince. “This is a team sport and that’s how you win championships.”

Beyond the championship, Samara’s dedication to the team aspect of the sport left a lasting impact on Princeton and his athletes.

“I think it’s fair to call Coach Samara a legend,” said former captain and middle-distance runner Duncan Miller ’24.

“Coach Samara has built this team into one of the best teams in the Ivy League and one of the best in the nation. He certainly shaped my time at Princeton University and always reminded us that we can be greater than we think.”

During his time as coach, Samara developed strong relationships with members of the men’s track and field team, and those relationships were the hardest part of leaving the job, Samara said.

“The relationships I have with the athletes, they are all a very special group and I always see things as a journey,” Samara said. “We start as freshmen and as we get older, not only do we grow on the track, we grow as people in many ways, but we grow – it’s not a cliché – but we grow tremendously. That’s the most rewarding thing for me and I will miss it so much.”

Samara herself was on the track and field team as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. His events included decathlon, pole vault, long jump and sprint. As Princeton’s head coach, Samara focused primarily on field events, but he always made sure to touch every part of the team.

“I was always immersed in everything, so to speak,” Samara said. “I think one of the ways he can be successful as a coach is to get to know everyone on the team and pay attention to everyone. I think they appreciate the.”

Samara’s athletes certainly appreciate his dedication to understanding both students and athletes. Moreover, they remember how he not only celebrated with them in their victories, but also comforted them and helped them through hardships.


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“He really cares about the person he coaches, not the athlete,” Schneson said. “He pushed us and created an intense and fun environment during practice. At competitions, he knew when to give us space after a poor performance and helped us improve our personal records and performances. They celebrated with us after we set a new record in the regional qualifiers.”

Samara led six athletes to the Olympics during his coaching years. He himself was a 1976 Olympic decathlete and his love for the sport influenced his daily coaching.

“His passion for the sport was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Andrei Iosivas ’23, a former Princeton track and field septet and now Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver. .He made you want to practice every day to improve not just for yourself but for him. He wanted your best. ”

Indeed, Samara delivered the best results. In the last 35 years, Samara was the only Ivy coach in his league to win all three heptagonal championships in cross-country, indoor athletics and outdoor athletics in the same year. No other coach has done it in 35 years, but Samara has done it 10 times.

“I think Princeton University should always strive to be the best at what it does,” Samara said. “Athletics, academics, campus appearance, campus cleanliness, in everything. You have to be the best person, you have to be the best teammate, you have to be the best student.”

This ethos of striving for excellence is what Samara has always believed in, encouraging her athletes to do the same and fostering a culture of program success.

“He was a constant source of inspiration and encouragement during his time at Princeton,” said Miller. “His passion and dedication to this team was unmatched. No one cared more about the success of the program than Coach Samara.”

After leading the men’s track and field team to victory after victory for 46 years, and finishing fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2022, Samara’s lasting legacy to the program and athletes is undeniable.

“The unity of the Princeton men’s track and field is more like a large family than a track team, with the coach at the center,” Schneson said. “He’s a coaching genius and one of the all-time greats in our sport. It’s hard to imagine a program without a coach, so when I heard that the coach would continue training with Jadwin after he retired, I was thrilled.”

As he promises his athletes, Samara’s retirement plans include returning to the Princeton campus every day.

“Well, I have a legendary training regimen, so I’m around Princeton every day,” Samara said. “I work out every day, and I think it’s important for everyone to do when they’re older. But you know, [Princeton’s] It’s such a big part of my life that I don’t want to leave it completely. So I’ll stay around and see what happens. ”

After decades of striving and achieving the best, Samara hopes her retirement will allow her to pursue new adventures outside of track and field.

“One of the reasons I retired was because I was at the University of Pennsylvania for four years, before that I obviously did track and field in high school, and then at Princeton for 46 years,” Samara said. rice field. “Whatever it was, I felt it was time to do something else. Maybe just stay home and be with my family, that’s fine, and if there’s a new adventure after that, that’s great.” Thing.”

While his athletes will love Samara’s frequent visits to campus, Princeton’s men’s track and field team needs a new head coach, and whoever takes over must take on a tremendous amount of responsibility. I don’t think so.

Nishika Baal is editor-in-chief of the sports section. prince.

Please send correction requests to corrections[at]Daily Princetonian.com.

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