With the indoor track and field season basically on hold without many competitions, we wanted to highlight some of the top athletes in the state. For the next month or so we will have interviews with athletes across the state. Today's feature is with Gorham junior sprint standout Andrew Farr
When did you first start running, and do you recall any of your childhood races?
I first started running competitively when I was entering 5th grade in the summer of 2014. At a really young age, I knew I loved to run, but elementary school didn't really provide any opportunities to pursue this passion. When I was 10 years old, I joined the Gorham Youth Summer Track program; it was the first organized track team that I had ever been a part of. Through this program and my coach, Todd Bickford, I not only gained a love and passion for the sport but a strong base of foundational skills that have helped build me into the sprinter I am today. This program really sparked my interest in what will now be a lifelong passion.
Was there a certain moment when you realized you'd be able to compete at such a high level?
I realized that I had the potential to compete at a high level in 6th grade. Going into middle school I was immensely insecure and had little confidence, but track saved me, changing my perception of not just my athletic abilities but myself as a whole. I went from the kid who was out picking dandelions at left-back during a soccer game to an athlete. A real athlete. From the kid who did sports because his parents signed him up for them, to someone who actually had talent and skill. I was on many sports teams growing up - track, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, etc. - but it wasn't until middle school that something clicked. Track gave me a newly found confidence that I had previously lacked. In 6th grade, I broke the Maine middle school indoor track 150 and 40-yard dash records, followed by 4 more records in 7th grade and two more in 8th. From there I would say my track career took off, and simultaneously, my self-confidence did too.
What are some bumps in the road that you've encountered when it comes to training in your track career?
Along the way in my track career, I've experienced several minor injuries like lower back strains and shin splints. However, these are incomparable to pulling my hamstring... twice. I had never experienced an injury that not only hindered my ability to sprint but took it away entirely. Nearing the end of my 2018-19 indoor season, I broke the freshman 300m and 55m state records, won three SMAA titles, and was seeded to place in the freshman 55m at nationals - I felt on top of the world. Imagine having a dream feel so close that you no longer have to dream it because it's essentially yours to own. Then, imagine all of that coming to a screeching halt. When I pulled my hamstring at the 2019 New Balance Nationals, that's what it felt like. For a very long time, I was filled with overwhelming sadness and grief. I not only lost confidence in my running abilities but myself convinced I would never sprint the same. But through the grueling and timely process of recovery, I came to realize this: an injury provides an opportunity to strengthen yourself, mentally and physically, in an area where you otherwise would have been weaker. I have gained so much new knowledge on how to listen and care for my body that I otherwise would not have had, and in the grand scheme of things, I'm grateful. Through this journey of ups and downs, track has become not just an aspect of my life, but my life. Not just something I think about, but rather the sole thoughts that consume my mind. I believe when you have success in something, all you want to do is get better. So what has seemed like a never-ending cycle of setbacks has just become part of the process - failure is simply inevitable on the journey to success.
How has COVID impacted your training this winter as you prepared for a season without a competitive season?
COVID has without a doubt impacted my training this winter, and while it would be easy to dwell on the fact that there are no indoor facilities to train in, no season to compete in, and no opportunities to further prove myself as an athlete, what good would that do. I like to think how COVID has given my hamstrings a chance to fully heal, my mind a chance to be recentered and focused for when competitions resume, and my body a chance to improve on the more technical aspects of the sport that are usually overlooked in a normal season. This winter has consisted of very frequent visits to planet fitness, doing workouts in my basement, and utilizing any chance I can get a sprint workout in (whether it's outside with seven of the eight lanes covered in snow, in 15-degree weather with tights and hand warmers, or upstairs at St. Joseph's college). Luckily, it hasn't been a snowy winter, so I've been able to get in a surprising amount of good sprint workouts. I've also been researching meets to run unattached at because I feel it would be giving up to accept the fact that there's no indoor season this winter.
Is there another track event you wish you were good at? What is appealing about it?
If I could be good at another track event, it would probably be shot put. This is mainly because if I could throw even semi-decently, then I would feel more confident trying the pentathlon. I admire those who have the ability to jump, throw, and run well - I think someone who is good at the pentathlon/decathlon is the epitome of a great athlete.
What are some hobbies and interests you have outside of running?
Outside of running, I really like to cook and bake. There's something about it that I find therapeutic, and a tasty end result is always nice too. I also like to play card games, especially cribbage, and play the piano. I'm also a big dog person, so any chance I can get to play with my dogs or take them for a walk I will take.
Who is your role model, and why?
My role models are without a doubt, my family. My oldest brother, Aaron, who attends the college of his dreams, Yale University, and is living proof that if you put in the work you will see results. My brother and best friend, Ryan, who is the #1 training partner out there. From pushing me through those last reps at the gym and encouraging me to use weights beyond what I think I can lift, to taking "ice baths" with me in Sebago Lake after chilly November sprint workouts, thank you. To my parents, who show me unconditional love and support in every aspect of my life. You're my biggest cheerleaders at every game and meet, my shoulders to cry on when life isn't as joyous, and my open arms to hug after one of life's victories. So to you - Aaron, Ryan, mom, and dad - thank you for the high standards of life you have set for me. I wouldn't be the person/athlete I am today without you.
Everyone has a bucket list, so give us some of the things on your list!
On my bucket list is to scuba dive, skydive, and to travel to six of the seven continents. There's so much of the world to see, and while Maine and the United States are great, I feel it wouldn't be a complete life without experiencing what the rest of the world has to offer.
What is the best advice you have received?
"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." Being an athlete is all about pushing your body beyond where it wants to go. It's all about finding your boundaries, then doing everything you can to push past them, and of course, it's going to hurt. But I fear regret more than I fear pain, and I would always trade a moment of discomfort for "a lifetime of glory," as Louis Zamperini once put it. Despite the obstacles, life throws my way, I believe that as long as I haven't given up, then there's always a chance I can succeed.
What is your favorite pre-race snack, tradition, etc.?
I normally get so nervous before meets that I don't eat at all, so I would say my favorite pre-race snack is good old H20. My favorite (and least favorite) tradition is taking an ice bath the night before a meet. Getting in is dreadfully painful but the post-ice-bath sensation is very satisfactory and counterbalances the initial pain. I find it a great way to refresh my muscles and get them ready for the competition the following day.
If you could do a sport other than XC/Track, what sport would it be, and why?
If I did a sport other than track and field, I would definitely ski. First of all, it seems exhilarating to fly down a mountain. Secondly, the views and overall scenery would be a nice place to get to train. Thirdly, and most importantly, we live in Maine. I've only been skiing about twice, and I feel it's a necessary skill to have as a Mainer.
Andrew's High School Personal bests
|55 Meter Dash||6.57|
|200 Meter Dash||23.16|
|300 Meter Dash||36.29|
|400 Meter Dash||51.67|
|600 Meter Run||1:25.96|
|600 Yard Run||1:19.46|