The marquee event of any track meet is the 4x400 meter relay, which is one reason it is saved for the last race.
Local track expert Jeremy Ingram said of this specific race, "The 400 is considered one of the hardest races. It a full sprint and most all coaches believe if you can run a good 400m, you can run any event."
To win this relay, you have four outstanding athletes, and if you are a part of that elite foursome for a school, you are one of its best athletes. If you are the anchor leg or the final runner, you are one of the school’s best pure athletes. If you are the anchor leg for a state champion team, you are something special.
Van Alstyne High School has had the opportunity to watch something special the past several years with Samuel Tormos wearing Panther blue.
Tormos shared that memorable moment in Austin as he crossed the finish line with a 10-meter lead.
"It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt," he said. "Our team worked so hard to come out on top this time after just making it to state the previous two years. Knowing that all of the early and late-night runs paid off was an indescribable feeling. We had so much support from our families, friends and the community, which we definitely couldn’t have done without them."
Tormos moved to Van Alstyne in ninth grade. In those four years he amassed one of the best resumes of a male athlete in school history.
He anchored the state champion relay team as a junior. Most projected the school to win back-to-back titles this year, but it did not have the opportunity due to coronavirus cancellations.
Tormos was also a team leader on one of the area’s best basketball teams, where he was so hard to stop when he used his speed to get to the rim. He was the defensive standout at shortstop and the person you wanted with the bat in hand at the plate on the baseball team that played in the final four in the state.
His lists of awards throughout his school career could fill a page in itself. Recently, the All-Texomaland Awards named him as the top overall male athlete in Grayson County for the past school year.
As a freshman, he was a first-team all-district pitcher and state qualifier in track. As a sophomore, he was the All-Texomaland Newcomer of the Year in basketball, a first-team infielder in baseball, a state qualifier in track, and the VAHS Male Athlete of the Year.
His junior year, he was the District Offensive Player of the Year award in both baseball and basketball, All-State baseball and state champion. The teen completed only one of his three sports his senior year, and was named District MVP, All Texomoland and All-State in basketball.
For Tormos, two memories stood out from his high school career: advancing to state in baseball and crossing the finish line as the state champion.
Speaking of the baseball memory, he said, "That was a hard-fought series against an outstanding Harmony team that came down to literally the last pitch. When we were all celebrating on the field and dog-piling, we were working towards all year long, and to experience that with my best friends was something I will not ever forget."
Tormos will continue playing baseball at the University of Houston while studying sports administration.
He credits two coaches in his life for their impact: Jacob Boddie, who coached him with his club baseball team for five years and helped him become the player he is today; and Van Alstyne High School’s Darrell Hardcastle "because he would always be real with me and tell me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. He also taught me that sports are what I do and not who I am."
Athletic Director Mikeal Miller presented Tormos the Panther Pride award during the school’s mobile sports awards earlier this year and said to the teen, "This award is all about character. It’s one thing to be an athlete; it’s another thing to be a leader and lead in the right way. You are the only person on this trophy with his name on there two years in a row (which) says something exceptional about you."
Coach Terry Land, Tormos’ track coach, said the teen "always did the little things right. You ask him to do something a certain way, he will do it exactly how it’s asked of him."
Tormos said he is appreciative of his time at Van Alstyne.
The community "continuously supported my efforts throughout my high school experience and will always consider Van Alstyne my home," he said. "I can’t thank the coaching staff at Van Alstyne enough for taking me in my freshman year and taking care of me. The coaches made me feel like I was at home and that I was more than just an athlete."
He also recognized his family and the support he received from his parents, Felix and Eryn. "I can’t thank God enough for them," as well as for his brother, sister and grandmother, who supported him with their presence at his games.
VAHS head baseball Coach Jimmy Haynes summed it up by saying, "Sam has been one of the best athletes and baseball players to come through VA in 19 years I’ve been coaching at VA. He was a great leader both on and off the field. I expect to see great things from Sam in the future."