Crowning Achievement

Two undergrads become the youngest people to complete all three major U.S. through-hikes in a single year.

March 2022

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Crowning Achievement

Photo: Chris Shane; Background image: Jen Dostalek

Sammy Potter first floated the idea of a calendar-year Triple Crown to distance-running buddy Jackson Parell during the early weeks of lockdown. If they completed the three fabled through-hikes—the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail—in 2021, they’d become the 11th and 12th people (and the youngest ever) to achieve the feat in a single year.

“One of my best friends had just died,” says Potter, ’22, “and I was still in the heaps of grief. I was not stoked about being in school or being home for that long.” 

Parell, ’22, was ready to lace up his boots. “There was this feeling of helplessness coming out of that time,” he says. “I really wanted to take control in any way that I could.” 

On January 1, 2021, they set off on the Appalachian Trail. And after some crisscrossing of the continent to avoid snowfalls and forest fires, they finished the last segment of Pacific Crest Trail on October 22. Friends and fans followed along on Instagram (@cytriplecrown) or trailed behind via Backpacker magazine’s Impossible Odds podcast. 

“I’ve definitely felt it all,” says Parell. “There’s the feeling of satisfaction knowing that it’s now behind us, the anticipation of seeing family and friends again. And there’s that really special kind of heartbreak that you get when you know an important chapter of your life is over.” 

The two are back on campus this winter, rooming together in the warm confines of 650 Mayfield Ave. 








Bear encounters


Average pounds carried


Cavity (Parell)


Average showers per week


Mt. Everest's worth of elevation gain


calories consumed


Pairs of shoes each

Sophia Boyd-Fliegel, ’21, is a former editorial intern at Stanford. Email her at

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