Sports Profile

Sam Elsen ’25: Heir of Athletics

Words: Abby Dorman ’17
Photos: Tony Hughes

Sam Elsen ’25 may be a present-day star athlete on the Wheaton track and cross country teams, but his record-setting career was set in motion decades ago. The legacy goes back to Elsen’s great-great-grandfather Ed Coray ’23, who helped shape Wheaton athletics as a player, coach, and athletic director.

Then came his great-grandfather, legendary athlete and wrestling coach Pete Willson ’50. Since then, other relatives competed in wrestling, soccer, track and field, basketball, swimming, cross country, tennis, lacrosse, and crew, including Sam’s father, Paul Elsen ’97, who was a six-time All-American in wrestling and track and field.

“My dad was a formidable athlete, and I always wanted to be like him,” Sam said.

Paul Elsen admires how his son has forged his own path at Wheaton. “He could compete in several track and field events but has focused on the 3000-meter steeplechase,” Paul said. “His natural stamina, size, and strength are real advantages in this grueling race.”

In the 2023 season, Elsen ran a time of 8:58:12 in the steeplechase. It was enough to put his name on the record board—right above his dad’s standing record in the decathlon.

More than any achievement, running at Wheaton has shaped Sam spiritually and relationally. Some of his most rewarding moments have come in the form of conversations with teammates on training runs and relying on the Lord for strength in a demanding sport.

“It’s a gift that we get to run,” he said. “We’re using what we have to worship the Lord and loving each other as we do it.”


Wheaton College womens soccer alumna Laura Koontz Bowers

Throwback: Laura Koontz Bowers ’07

Laura Koontz Bowers ’07 excelled for Wheaton on the soccer field and on the track. A two-time All-American on the soccer field, she helped lead the team to two national championships in 2004 and 2006. In track and field, she set a school record in the 400-meter dash and contributed to her team’s school record in the 4×400-meter relay. “Wheaton Athletics truly taught me to play for a greater purpose than myself or any achievements I could be awarded,” she said. “It is not about what I can do on the field, but what God can do through me.”