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Haverford School’s AJ Sanford is Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week

The senior cross country captain was undefeated in the Fords’ shortened Inter-Ac cross country season last fall, going 4-0 against Germantown Academy (twice), Springside Chestnut Hill and Episcopal Academy, with his best time on the season 17:12. Sanford also competes in indoor and outdoor track at Haverford School, and as a sophomore was part of the Fords’ record-setting 4×800 relay team at the Inter-Ac Championships. Haverford School cross country coach Mike Toomey said, “AJ was our MVP this past fall and a leader in every way. AJ was not only our fastest runner, but he was also one of our biggest cheerleaders. I was very impressed in the belief and trust that AJ put in to his teammates. As for his running, I really believe his best days are ahead of him. AJ has a real chance to be an impact runner at the next level.” Sanford is a member of the Signet Society, Black Student Union and Diversity Alliance at Haverford School, where he is an Honor Council Liaison and a school tour guide.

Q: You mentioned that your most memorable race this past fall was the Fords’ season opener at Germantown Academy. Tell us a little about that race. What was the key to your performance that day?

A: For me, it was a calculated and tactical race. I was unaware of my opponent’s abilities, so I let him run the race for me until about halfway through, when I realized the race was mine. With about 800 meters left, I separated from his shoulder and claimed the race. A 3.1-mile race is never anything short of a challenge, but this race showcased the sport’s competitive nature and also the enjoyment you can sometimes find in a 5K.

Q: Tell us a little about the biggest challenge you faced as a cross country team captain in keeping the team motivated and focused through summer training and early in the fall when the competitive season was in doubt.


A: While we might have not gotten the results we wanted for our last race of the 2020 season due to the impact of the coronavirus, among other things, I still left the race knowing my team left 110 percent on the course. Even when teammates had different paces during a workout, nobody ever ran alone. We cheered each other on when finishing a tough workout and the only way we got through challenging times was through teamwork. Cross country is not a sport where you can walk into a season without any fitness and expect to shatter your personal best so the toughest challenge was getting the team to really hit a peak with such a shortened season. The way we overcame a lack of summer training was through young guys stepping up and really working hard during the season to change the trajectory of our overall performance. Saying goodbye to 2020 was easy, but saying a final farewell to my team and the great group of guys we had is something I’m still carrying into 2021. 


Q: You also run indoor/outdoor track for Haverford School. What has been your most memorable experience in Haverford School track – can you share it with us?


A: One of the most memorable experiences in outdoor track was the Inter-Ac Championship my sophomore year. I was the second leg in the 4x800m race and I needed to overcome a 100 meter deficit. I received the baton in fourth place and by the end of the race, I fought to move up and handed the stick to my teammate in first place. From then on, we went to win the race and break our school record along with the Inter-Ac record in the 4×800. 


Q: What was your most memorable experience at the Penn Relays while competing for Haverford School?


A: One of my most memorable Penn Relays experiences actually comes from my sprinting days in middle school when I was a part of our winning 4×100 team. I’ll always remembering receiving a gold medal at the Penn Relays. 


Q: What aspect of your running are you working on most recently?

A: There is still a lot up in the air about what will happen in terms of racing in Pennsylvania, but regardless I am working on building a strong aerobic base in preparation to break a couple of school records in the spring. 


Q: Tell us a little about your pre-race preparation on the day of a race.


A: Before any race I like to break down every part of the 2-16 (depending on the race) minutes of pain I will soon undergo and visualize the different parts of the course or track. While training and physical fitness are very important aspects of a race, your mind also has to be ready in order to be at your best. 



Q: What do you think you would like to major in at college? Is there a particular career field that interests you at the present time?

A: Currently, I plan on majoring in political science with hopes to ultimately attend law school and earn my JD.

Fun facts – AJ Sanford

Favorite book: The New Jim Crow. 

Favorite author: Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Favorite TV show: Breaking Bad. 

Favorite movie: Batman the Dark Knight Rises.

Favorite athlete: Damian Lillard. 

Favorite pre-meet pump-up song: Can’t Leave Without It. 

Favorite team: Philadelphia 76ers.

Favorite place to visit: China. 

Favorite pre-meet meal: Oatmeal. 

Person I most admire, and why: “I really admire my parents because of how much they persevered and excelled in life; and they were able to send me to such an amazing school like Haverford School.”

Family members: parents Alfred and Patricia, sister Savannah.


(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)



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