The Journey On The Track For Carlisle's Noah & Sam Affolder Continues

Running has been a constant in the lives of Noah and Sam Affolder for as long as they can remember.

What's been a little more uncertain has been the brothers' residence -- no fault of their own, really.

Since their father is a logistics officer for the Army and has risen up the ranks over the years, the Affolder clan has historically been on the move.

They've lived in more than a handful of different states, including Tennessee, Virginia, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, New York, Alaska, and Pennsylvania.

They've uprooted from places they grew to love and from others they wish they knew more about. Currently, Noah and Sam attend Carlisle (PA) High School as their father finishes up his schooling at the United States Army War College. Every new destination offers a chance for the boys to learn something new about the region.

But even as soon as next year, things will change yet again. While Noah will be off to Syracuse University to run for the Orange, Sam will likely be on to his next high school, this time in Virginia.

"My dad got a job at the Pentagon, so we'll move there by the start of next school year," Sam said.

And yet, it hasn't distracted either from their aspirations in the world of high school running. Noah's been to three high schools in four years, but he's racked up four state titles in Pennsylvania and New York and likely will add more merit to his name by the time his senior season is up.

Sam doesn't have one yet, but perhaps that's only in due time.

The brothers, who have Hispanic Games high school boys mile wins -- Noah in 2016 and Sam in 2017 -- continue their journey March 10-12 at New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York, where each will hope to attach All-American status to his name and earn a national record in the distance medley relay.

But getting there is only part of the journey.

* * *

When Noah, a Millrose Games high school boys elite mile winner in 2017, was given his first cell phone by his father six years ago, he was given a choice: What area code would you like?

It wasn't such a simple question. At the time, there were a few factors to consider. What did he want his area code to say about him? How would it tell a larger story about his background in a military family? Where exactly was home for him?

He had actually been born in the state of Kentucky, and yet his birth certificate reads Tennessee, because the military post his family was living at the time was right over the border.

But when push came to shove, Affolder, who will vie for a national championship in the 2-mile and distance medley relay at New Balance Nationals Indoor, chose Alaska. He chose the 907 area code. 

Alaska was where he had his first long run with his grandfather. But there was also this: At the time his dad asked him this question, he was in the fifth grade and wanted to let people know he used to see moose and bears walking down the street.

Sam, who will feature in the 1-mile and DMR, has fond memories of Alaska, too, saying it's where he gained his athleticism.

Nearly seven years later, the Affolders have moved on, but they're still crushing standards, this time at Carlisle.

With its rolling hills and temperate climate, Pennsylvania offers great conditions for both to excel. They are both members of Carlisle's 4x800m and DMR relays, which currently stand U.S. No. 1. Noah is also U.S. No. 13 in the 800m (1:53.84), U.S. No. 2 in the 1500m (3:50.87), and U.S. No. 3 in the 1-mile (4:07.24).

"That's special to me," Noah said, commenting on the U.S. No. 1 status of his team's relays. "That says something about the ability of the team."

And yet, the story of their success in running likely began just a few years earlier in New York. Their entry to the state came after a four-year spell in Illinois -- where as a freshman at Mascoutah High, Noah ran with his older brother, Murphy, who was a senior at the time.

Noah flourished almost immediately, scoring two straight NYSPHSAA cross country championships for Carthage. When he became a junior, Sam stepped into the high school and the pair began to form what they are today: budding stars in the world of high school running.

"I would call myself a New York native," Noah said. "Because running is such a big part of my life now. That's where it took off."

Eventually, though, both Noah and Sam, the second and third oldest of five siblings, realized the good times would move somewhere else.

Fortunately, they arrived in Central Pennsylvania, which has a strong history of long distance running.

Their head coach at Carlisle, Ed Boardman, had been an assistant at nearby Shippensburg University, which is coached by former 1991 World Championships marathon bronze medalist Steve Spence.

Boardman coached with the Red Raiders up until 2007, before ultimately deciding he wanted to make an impact at the high school level. That's exactly what he did.

Before the Affolders arrived, Boardman had coached multiple NCAA Division I runners, including current Duke University freshman Matt Wisner, who was a District 3 champion in the 800m last year.

"It's fun, this is why I coach," Boardman said of training the brothers. "Every Olympian came from some high school somewhere. So I really like working with kids at this level. Getting to work with people who may someday wear the USA on their chest, that's a thrill."

Noah continued to dominate over the fall season, winning a state cross country title and then the Foot Locker Northeast Regional in November, just weeks after signing his letter of intent to attend Syracuse.

He finished sixth at Foot Locker Nationals before being given an opportunity to don the USA colors in January at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country International Challenge in Scotland.

"To wear that uniform, that was cool," he said. "And then the course, you raced on the side of a mountain, and being able to race kids form Europe and Great Britain, that was cool."

Sam scored a season best of 15:17 in the 5K at the Carlisle High Invitational, finished third at states, and then second alongside his brother at Foot Locker Northeast. Sam was 40th at nationals.

"Neither of us like to keep around people who don't work hard for what they want," Sam said. "I think that's something the military (culture) has instilled in us, and it's been great."

* * *

While both Noah and Sam will compete in individual events at New Balance Nationals Indoor, neither said he is focused on his own accomplishments.

The real prize, they say, is setting a new school record and potential national record in the distance medley relay.

Carlisle ran a nation-leading time of 10:13.12 on Feb. 25 at the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association Championships, but Noah said there's an exception to that, too.

The Thundering Herd were running on tired legs.

This time around, he said, the team will be fresh and capable of cutting significant time in order to go for the national record of 9:59.94, which was set by Gloucester (MA) in 2000.

Sam will take the opening 1200m leg, then hand off to Jared Griffie in the 400m, who will give way to Isaac Kole's 800m. By the time Kole gives the baton for one final 1600m dance, Noah will look to fly for a potential record. 

"I think a team title in any event is way better than individual," Sam said. "You know at least four of you were at practice every day, getting better, motivating each other. That's way more special in my book."

"We're definitely trying to go real fast," Noah added.

Fortunately for the Affolders, competition has always been half the experience. Then comes the journey.

To connect with Milesplit Content Producer Cory Mull, follow him on Twitter @bycorymull. Have a story idea? We're all about those. Email him at To have access to year-round stats, breaking news, stories and videos, register for Milesplit here.