INDIAN TRAIL – Early on in Samuel O’Grady’s life, it was clear he would have challenges.
After noticing developmental delays, Sam’s parents consulted a doctor and were told their 2-year-old son had autism.
Doctors prepared Sam’s family for the worst, telling them it was very likely he would not be able to make friends, go to a regular school and walk or talk normally. Sam’s family set out to work as hard as they could at therapy and early intervention techniques to push his limits and combat the affects of autism.
In fifth grade, the family discovered the effect that exercise, particularly running had on his body. He was able to come off of all his medications and began regularly running with his father, Sean.
In seventh grade, Sam joined the cross country team in middle school. During his first race, he was running last, but his teammates met him for the final 50 yards of the race. Sam became hooked.
By the time Sam was a senior at Sun Valley High School, he was running six-minute miles and made his goal of finishing a cross country race in under 21 minutes.
Cross country opened up new friendships and Sam’s personality flourished, helping him get outside of his comfort zone by becoming a team captain, member of the homecoming court and Professor Plum in the school’s rendition of “Clue.”
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association took notice, selecting him as one of four student-athletes across the state to win the 2020 Tony Simeon Courage Award. The award honors individuals who, despite adversity, have demonstrated exemplary character and performance.