“He literally took a piece of chalk and drew a circle around a part of the park,’” Gooden said with a smile.
From there, Gooden went on to Fordham Prep and began running competitively.
“I’d run a mile and that was OK to me, but then what my coach used to do was he’d continuously add miles and just didn’t tell me,” he said with a laugh. “We started running two miles and then I’d say, ‘Coach, it felt a little longer today.’ And he’d say, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, you’re just getting really good at it.’ Eventually, I started to realize that I ran three miles and he just wasn’t telling me.”
That baseline work set the stage for Gooden’s track and field career at Fordham, where he’s run a variety of mid-distance races, from 400 to 800 meters. During the 2018-2019 season, Gooden, who received an athletic scholarship to run at Fordham, earned two medals for Fordham within two weeks: He was a bronze medalist at the Atlantic 10 Championship in the 500-meter run, and he earned another bronze at the IC4A Championship in the 500-meter race while also helping the relay team place fifth.
Those two weeks were intense, Gooden said.
“Two of our best 400-meter runners went down, an old captain of mine and one of my teammates, and the team definitely needed me to just be able to be there for them and the ability to be able to give them 100% with both my individual [races], and my relay was, it was a really great feeling,” he said.
Finding Motivation as the Anchor Leg
While Gooden has had strong individual performances, his coaches said he really shines when passing the baton to others.
“He really thrives in the relays, and I think that’s because he’s such a team player,” said Brian Horowitz, head track and field coach. “[He has] exceptional performances on the track, and he’s definitely a good role model for some of our freshmen and sophomores this year, bringing them under his wing.”
Gooden, a senior English major at Fordham College at Rose Hill who loves to write, said it’s the competition in relays that fuels him.
“Being the anchor leg …is definitely a very big activation for me to ‘hunt down’ whoever is in front of me,” he said. “I love just being able to get parallel with somebody else and say, ‘OK, let’s see how much we can give.’”
Gooden said that he felt the team was really hitting its stride right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring.
“We missed the school record by 0.2 [seconds],” he said. “We’d come really close to that. And that was a really big step for us.”
Advocating for Fellow Athletes
For Gooden, that passion and drive also extends to his commitments off the field, where he’s working to improve the lives of student-athletes and grow partnerships between the athletics program and the Bronx community. As someone who has faced discrimination and racial microaggressions throughout his athletic career, he said he wants to make sure other student-athletes don’t have to face the same issues. And being a commuting student-athlete gave Gooden insight into the needs of others like him—such as the importance of schedule flexibility to fit in training, or having to factor in commuting time to get to programs and activities.
“Being a student athlete, it seems like the life, [but]it’s a lot of hours, especially for me,” he said.
Gooden used his participation as a member of the Fordham Athletics Social Justice Task Force, Fordham Connect, and the Athletics’ Advisory Committee, to bring these issues to light. He’s also been working with his coaches and staff to implement changes, such as improved advising, more support, and an updated handbook for student-athletes on their rights. The handbook includes a new reporting protocol for bias-related incidents and hate crimes, a policy on student demonstrations, and an updated mission and purpose statement.
“I’m trying to encourage a lot of coaches to look beyond just the athlete, and look at the personal side, the home side, the individual themselves,” he said. “I think, one, that makes a strong team and two, it allows a coach to nurture an overall better athlete when you take all those things into account.”
Making Strides in Diversity
Horowitz said that Gooden, who has also had to battle hamstring injuries, has been a leader for other teammates and athletes.
“Arthur was quick to just jump in and lend his voice and work with myself and the entire Athletics Department to make sure that we are focusing on all the needs of our student athletes and being as inclusive in everything as possible,” he said.
Gooden highlighted the athletics department’s diversity initiatives, which he has been a part of, and his coaching staff’s attentiveness to the needs of student-athletes as signs of progress, in addition to the handbook, he said.
“There’s been different implementations of diversity training within the athletic staff now in a variety of ways, from guest speakers to workshops,” Gooden said.
Gooden said he plans to continue working on his creative writing, and possibly pursue law school after getting a master’s in English.
“I fell in love with writing—when I have time, I write poetry for myself. I like stories. I love storytelling, spoken word poetry, and when I have more time I write music and things of that nature,” he said.
His goal is to continue running at Fordham in graduate school, as he had a few years left of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would definitely like to fifth year because those school records hang on my mind—when I was a sophomore, I missed the school record by 0.3 or 0.4 [seconds], so I definitely have an air of unfinished business to take care of,” he said.