NEWINGTON – Sam Geisler grew up a die-hard UConn basketball fan, and since childhood, envisioned himself taking the floor for the Huskies like his heroes Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright. When he walked into the doors of Newington High School for the first time as a freshman, those dreams remained a driving force in his life.
Then, that lifelong goal came to a halt, but also began a different path toward his dream school.
“I always wanted to go there for basketball,” Geisler said. “I grew up watching all of the games. I remember them all. But when I was in ninth grade, I didn’t make the basketball team, and I thought my life was over.
“But it turns out I was good at something else.”
The basketball chapter of Geisler’s life may have been over, but that only opened himself up to focus on his running career even more, which has now landed him in a Huskies uniform, even if it isn’t a basketball one. Geisler, in the midst of his senior year at Newington, celebrated his commitment to UConn’s track and cross country teams this past week, helping one of Newington’s top runners of all time accomplish fulfill a dream, just in a new light.
After getting a glimpse at the school’s running program, Geisler quickly realized that his new dream could be just as fulfilling as the ones that began when he was glued to Huskies basketball games on the television as a boy.
“Uconn was the best fit for me and the best program,” Geisler said. “They have a great community outreach program, which is really important to me, and I just love the program. They have people go into the program with decent times but come out as All-Americans. Everything they have there from the academic assistance to strength and conditioning, it just all worked out.”
Geisler never felt farther from his UConn aspirations after being cut from the freshman basketball team, but after a historic junior season with the cross country team, which included setting Newington’s home course record and finishing second at the CCC and Class L championships, his new path began to materialize. Geisler’s All-State junior campaign helped draw interest from multiple Division I programs, including the Huskies and head coach Lindsay Crevoiserat.
“It started my junior year after my cross country season and really improved,” Geisler said of his college recruitment. “I really started progressing. That’s when college offers started coming. I had a couple D-I coaches calling and texting me. Coach Lindsay finally texted me, and UConn was always high on my list.”
The texts from Crevoiserat turned into a Zoom meeting, which included the rest of the cross country team. Geisler immediately bought into Crevoiserat’s message, but once Crevoiserat left the meeting, Geisler’s decision gained even more clarity.
“Coach left the Zoom meet and let all the guys talk, and I think that was a really smart move,” Geisler said. “I got to see all the guys in their natural place and talk with them with no bias. We talked about the program and what it was like, and I just fell in love with the program.”
Geisler knew UConn was where he wanted to be, though he had to clear a hurdle in the form of a canceled outdoor track season this past spring as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Geisler was able to use his junior season to greatly improve his cross country times, but didn’t have that chance for track. But he was able to earn an offer from the Huskies anyways, who felt they saw all they needed to with Geisler’s work ethic.
“I was really looking forward to the outdoor track season to get those times down for colleges, so that was kind of a struggle convincing the UConn staff that I could hold my own there without having the times to prove it since the track season got canceled,” Geisler said. “It was a little difficult proving to them that I can do this. I already had the cross country times, and with running, your cross country times can be a reflection of track times. They know I’ve been grinding and know I can do it. Coach Lindsay was very generous and aware that this isn’t a normal year. She was able to see that even without conference championships and state finals that I’ve been motivated and been able to improve.”
Geisler wasn’t able to run in a postseason format this year, with the CCC’s Region D championship meet getting canceled due to a pair of schools dropping out due to covid, but having a senior season in any form helped him break the home course record again, while giving him more time to continue to improve upon his marks in preparation for his collegiate career.
His high school basketball career may have never gotten off the ground, but his cross country tenure was able to have a farewell tour, and will go down as one of the best Newington has ever seen. The end result was the accomplishment of a dream that could only happen when a different one was denied.
“Even if it’s not competition, it’s still a team,” Geisler said of the 2020 season. “Just having all the guys around and having something to push to, we were just bettering ourselves together. We were able to have something to strive for.”