If Sam Peal is a few minutes late for a St. Albans track practice, nobody says a word. For if he misses a few laps around the track, he more than makes up for it with the running he does from one activity to another.
Peal's total involvement in the St. Albans program has led him to become an institution during his nine years at the school, which is on the Washington Cathedral grounds at the intersection of Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues NW.
In addition to starring in three sports, Peal, 17, provides baritone for three vocal groups, plays the piano, maintains an A-minus grade average, and is serving as president of the student council.
Peal, who came to Washington with his family from Liberia at age 2, also has a working knowledge of several languages and dabbles with the approximately 20 dialects of the tribes of his homeland.
Peal's decision to participate in so many avocations is based on his effort to gain the full quotient of his abilities, he said. Peal admits he probably could be better at any of his activities if he concentrated on one or two exclusively, but he said this would deprive him of opportunities he might never have again.
"For me, it's not worth it to add three points to my (92) grade average," the 5-foot-9, 178-pound Peal explained, "because to do that I would have to drop half of my extracurriculars. I'll never be able to repeat these years so I can."
As a senior running back in football, Peal rushed for more than 1,300 yards and scored 108 points in nine games, the highest points-per-game average in the Washington area.
In Wrestling, Peal took three Interstate Athletic Conference titles, But the high point of his grappling career came in his junior year when he captured the national prep school 167-pound crown. He might have repeated this as a senior, but he aggravated a football injury during the tournament and lost his final two matches of a 20-2 season.
Peal also holds the school pole vault record of 13 feet, though his coach Dick Allanson predicts if his prodigy were not suffering the lingering effects of his football shoulder injury, he'd have cleared 14-6 this year.
In the meantime, Peal helps out in the sprints and anchors St. Albans' 440-yard relay.
The soft-spoken youngter remains modest about his successes. "In most of the things there is someone better so there's no reason to think I'm the best," he said. "Maybe 13 feet (in the pole vault) is the best in the conference, but there must be someone doing 15 feet somewhere in the country."
Peal, who will go to Harvard in the fall, plans to concentrate on music in college. He is a member of St. Albans' madrigal group, glee club, and barbershop sextet, and said he simply finds music more pleasurable than sports.
"Singing is the only thing I will continue," Peal confirmed. "I like music. It's something that doesn't take a lot of effort and something you can enjoy while you practice. Sports you can only enjoy the end product. I enjoy it, but I don't look forward to it day to day."STAs Peal completes his final month at St. Albans, he should reap the rewards of his popularity. As a junior, the student body voted him top overall student and best overall athlete, two of the school's three premier awards. This year, he may make a clean sweep of the honors by adding the best Christian attitude designation.
Peal eventually plans to rejoin his family in Liberia. His father, Edward, returned from diplomatic assignment a year ago to Moravia, Liberia, where he is a rubber farmer and politician. Sam has lived with a friend in Georgetown since his family departed.
"I've never had a kid like him," said Allanson, who coached Peal in football as well as track. "I've had kids who were as good athletes, but not all-around. The thing about him is he doesn't realize how good he is."
"He's so talented," said athletic director John Dodd."There won't be anybody like him around here for a long time."