As Lodi High School senior and pole vaulter Sam Wright led his teammates in their daily warmup on the school’s track on Thursday afternoon, the student-athlete’s spirits were especially high as he had recently learned that he was accepted to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
“I visited a couple of weeks ago, and I just knew it was the place for me,” Wright said. “All the training and work I’ve done over the years, it all feels worth it.”
With a personal record of 15 feet 7 inches as a pole vaulter and an unweighted grade-point average of 4.78 (4.0 weighted) as a student, Wright said Harvard’s track and field program was just as important as its academic programs when he applied.
“I’m really excited to compete there,” Wright said. “I really like the coach, I feel like he has my best interests in mind and he seems like he’ll be a good coach for the next four years.”
Wright plans to study either environmental science and engineering or chemistry, he said, and hopes to develop environmentally sustainable practices for urban development, agriculture and more once he graduates.
Greg Wright — Sam’s father and track coach and a teacher at Lodi High — said that although Ivy League universities such as Harvard do not offer scholarships specifically for athletics, his son did receive a $49,000 annual scholarship package, roughly 70 percent of one year’s tuition.
“I guess, as a coach and parent, I feel phenomenal, grateful, lucky,” Greg Wright said. “He’s worked really hard, he’s always been a really focused student.”
It was not uncommon for Sam to spend up to six hours a night on homework, Greg said, in addition to the two hours each day he dedicated to athletics.
“He’s certainly put his time in,” Greg said.
Sam is not the first Lodi High student to be accepted to an Ivy League or other prestigious university, Greg said, with a 2015 graduate attending Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., a 2016 attending University of Southern California in Los Angeles and current senior planning to attend Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., next fall.
“We have kids at smaller schools as well, but those are the big programs,” Greg said.
As he finished his warmup and prepared to begin the rest of his practice on Tuesday afternoon, Sam Wright took a moment to express his gratitude to his parents, teachers, friends and teammates for their support and guidance over the past four years.
“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without them,” Sam Wright said.