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This time last year, most people in the NJ T&F world had no idea who Adam Gorka was.
But in the span of 48.66 seconds, he changed all that when the South Brunswick sprint star pulled off a stunning victory in the 400m out of the next to last section at the Meet of Champions last March at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island.
Gorka's 48.66 was a big PR, breaking his previous best of 49.05 when he was 13th as a sophomore in the 400m at the 2019 outdoor Meet of Champions, and was the fastest time in the state for the indoor season.
Gorka also made history with his victory as he became the first boy from South Brunswick (indoors or outdoors) to win a M of C title on the track. South Brunswick has three M of C winners in the field, Ed Watts (HJ indoors in '93), Jason Mandato (PV outdoors in '99), and Yemi Ayeni (discus in '04 and '05), but Gorka is the first to accomplish the feat on the track.
Unfortunately, because the NJSIAA cancelled the outdoor season as a result of the pandemic, Gorka hasn't raced since his memorable M of C win.
But, the UPenn-bound stud has been working very hard to stay sharp and fit, and the time away from racing has fueled his competitive fire even more as Gorka has targeted some fast times, and has some big records in his cross-hairs for the current indoor season and the outdoor campaign.
NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Gorka for an in depth Q and A.
Gorka reveals how much winning the M of C 400m meant to him, what his goals are, how he got started in T&F, how he's been training, his decision to attend UPenn, and a whole lot more.
So, sit back and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Adam Gorka, the fastest quarter-miler in the state.
Adam Gorka Interview
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NJM: Winning a Meet of Champions title is a dream that every track and field athlete in NJ has. What did it mean to you to accomplish that goal last year when you ran that huge PR out of the unseeded heat to win the 400 at the Meet of Champions?
I was incredibly anxious for the 400m at MOC. Up to that point, I had been largely unsatisfied with my indoor season and I felt that I should've been running much better times. MOC was the last chance for a 400m indoor PR and I didn't want to take that opportunity lightly. I was nervous for the race, but determined to run to the best of my ability.
The moment that I realized that I had won despite being in the unseeded heat, I immediately felt overwhelmed. I view that race as a culmination of all of my hard work throughout the years and support from coaches and teammates alike. Winning that race is my proudest moment in track. For that, I am grateful to have such amazing coaches and the opportunity to represent South Brunswick High School.
How much did winning that M of C title boost your confidence, and give you even bigger goals for your senior year?
Winning MOC has made me a lot more confident as an athlete, however I now have a responsibility to defend my title for my senior year. I have to train even harder and push myself for new goals. For my senior year, I intend on breaking my school 400m record (47.48) and running even faster times so that I can have a lasting legacy for South Brunswick.
How excited are you to be able to finally be competing again after missing the outdoor season? When is your first meet and what will you be running?
I am very excited to finally have the chance to compete again after such a long absence. Running at meets is a big part of my life that I miss. Due to Covid restrictions, I will only have a few opportunities to compete. The constantly changing situation in regards to Covid restrictions means that it isn't certain when my first meet will be. However, I am hoping to have the chance to compete soon.
What's your plan for this indoor season? Is your team running many indoor meets? Polar Bear meets?
My plan for this indoor season is largely to work on my training and be ready for an exciting outdoor season. It is unknown how many meets my school will be running for this season. I am hoping to at least have some opportunities to race at some local Polar Bear meets.
Unfortunately, there wasn't an outdoor season last spring because of COVID-19, so you didn't get a chance to run outdoor track last spring. How challenging was that and how tough was it mentally to deal with? It was very disappointing.
I was excited for the outdoor season, and I felt confident that I would break my school's outdoor 400m record. In addition, last year we had what was potentially the best team in South Brunswick High School's history. Although I was frustrated with losing the outdoor season, I used the time to begin training early for the next season. I think that it's important to not dwell on the lost season and I'd much rather become prepared for the future.
What type of things did you do to stay sharp since last indoor season? What kind of training were you able to do?
Although I wasn't able to compete, I have been using this time to train. Since I often wasn't able to meet with my team, I have been running in my neighborhood and doing workouts on the street. Sprint training has definitely been the hardest to do, especially when road conditions were poor and I didn't have access to a track. Despite this, my coaches (special thanks to Coach Morgan Murray) have been amazing in supplying us with training that could be done on our own.
What is practice like at South Brunswick? Did you guys shovel off the track or are you running in the school parking lots and hallways? Currently, practice at South Brunswick has been challenging.
As a team, we are limited only to parking lots and paths on campus. The recent snowfalls in South Brunswick have restricted our opportunities to work on the track. However, now that the weather is improving, we will be shoveling off the track this weekend and getting back to our usual training schedule.
What are your biggest goals for this indoor season and for the outdoors? What kind of times would you like to hit in your races?
For this indoor season, I plan on running at least a low 48. As for outdoors, I plan on breaking South Brunswick's outdoor 400m record of 47.48. Beyond that, I feel that I am capable of running under 47 seconds. Thanks to my coaches and training so far, I feel confident about this goal.
Last year you just missed the school indoor record of 48.46. How big of a goal is that for you to break this season, and what do you think your chances are of breaking it?
I was really disappointed once I realized how close I was to the school record. Although I am worried about a lack of meets for this season, I believe that I am capable of breaking it.
How about the outdoor school record of 47.48 and the Middlesex County record of 46.94, set by Bryant McCombs of Old Bridge in 2005)? How big are those goals for you, and do you feel like those records are within reach for you to break?
I was hoping to break the outdoor school record last year, however the season was cancelled because of Covid. I feel like these records are definitely within my reach. Breaking these records would mean a lot to me, since I would see it as a lasting legacy for South Brunswick High School.
You've competed in so many events in your career-200, 400, 800, high hurdles, and 400 hurdles. Which race is your favorite and why?
My favorite race by far is the 400m. I feel like this race has the perfect mix of sprinting and stamina. To add to this, I love the 4x400m relay, as the hype around it makes it such an exciting way to finish off a meet. What do you consider your greatest strength as a track and field athlete? I would consider my greatest strength to be my ability to push myself. Especially when it comes down to the last stretch of a 400m, I feel like I always have the strength for one last kick no matter how tired I am.
Let's get into some background, Adam. Can you tell me how, when, and why you first got started competing in track and field? Did you play other sports growing up?
Running has always been a passion for me. My earliest sport was soccer which I started in elementary school and continued up until middle school. Middle school was the first time I was exposed to track and field, (as well as cross country) and I loved it. Originally, I ran primarily as a distance runner and only switched to sprinting near the end of middle school. One of my favorite things about track has always been the individuality of races. Unlike other sports, how well you do in a meet is only determined by yourself and I find that this makes it easier to distinguish yourself from others.
When would you say you had your first huge breakthrough moment when you realized you could be a big track and field star?
My breakthrough moment was most likely competing on the 4x400m team as a freshman. Although I had been successful in middle school, being on the 4x400m team was incredibly exciting. The relay team consisted of some older teammates that I really looked up to and knowing that I was on par with them was exhilarating.
Who is your favorite college/pro runner to watch and why?
There are a lot of runners that I like to keep track of, but I have always been a fan of Matthew Boling (now a freshman at Georgia). I've always been impressed by his consistent success and versatility in events.
What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete?
I love the excitement of winning a race as well as the encouragement that my teammates show for each other. Finishing first or earning a PR is such a satisfying feeling, especially when you have been training hard.
What's your biggest long-term goal in track and field in college and beyond?
My goal is to keep earning PRs and eventually place in major meets in college.
How excited are you to be attending UPenn this fall? What was it about the school/team that made you commit there?
I am incredibly excited to be committed to UPenn! UPenn felt like the perfect match for me as a school; it had exactly what I was looking for. Academics have always been very important to me, and UPenn has one of the most competitive Computer Science programs in the country. I have also fallen in love with its beautiful campus.
Penn track and field also has the competitive edge that I am looking for. Home to the Penn Relays, the team has a history of success and amazing athletes. I'm excited to be a part of such a competitive team and have the opportunity to work with extremely experienced coaches. I have already met with a lot of my future teammates, and I love the sense of camaraderie from the team. It has the same family environment as South Brunswick where everyone encourages each other and provides support. I can't wait to represent the Penn family.
What do you plan to major in and what type of career would you like to pursue?
I intend on majoring in Computer Science at Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science. I would like to pursue a career working with computers and technology. I am currently interested in artificial intelligence.