Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Road to State: Sara VanWagoner

DSC_0124We were all born to run. For some that desire is just enhanced with a ball.

Sara VanWagoner has long been known on campus as a super-star soccer player who will move on to play at the college level. But she also has a reputation as a runner: the “crazy one” who after her soccer game goes for a run… for fun.

It was fellow soccer teammate Brianna Visalli who first brought up the idea of running cross country to VanWagoner, but for one reason or another it never seemed to materialize. That is until this year when after talking to the coaches and receiving encouragement from her soccer coach she thought she’d give it a try.

It was the first WCAL league meet of the season, a 4k looped course at the Baylands in Sunnyvale that featured many of the best teams in the section. It was a highly competitive environment and while no one really knew what to expect Sara did know one thing: she wanted to win.

Starting from the gun the senior took to the front in that first race, and did so with a smile. “I just didn’t want anyone to beat me,” she said.

DSC_0255And there were the Coaches holding their breath as VanWagoner went out that first mile in 6:13, a blistering pace that had many wondering if the first time runner might have started too fast. But as she came through a clearing just past the half way point the gap had grown. And then grew some more.  She opened up a sizable lead that would never be surrendered. VanWagoner was on her way to winning her first race throwing down a blazing sprint to the finish that saw her pass up the lead bike.  She won by more than a minute.

Sara exemplifies a spirit of community, a willingness to help the team. A tremendous athlete who in a short while she has proven she has multiple talents.

“Sara is a true competitor and does whatever it takes to help her team succeed,” Coach Fugate said, who coaches her on the Valley Christian soccer team.  "Her work ethic and outgoing personality are keys to her success as an individual and within the team.”

Despite an immensely successful first outing the nerves were running high heading into her second meet of the year, and rightfully so, it was the WCAL Championship. After missing the second WCAL meet due to getting her wisdom extracted she toed the line for the hilly, technical course that benefits the experienced runner. Once the race started the nerves seemed to fade away.  VanWagoner was near the front pack running 6:01 for the first mile split and held on to run 20:06, earning All-WCAL honors.

DSC_0554Returning to the same Crystal Springs course for the CCS Championship provided confidence. Knowing what to expect Sara ran more strategically at the start making a decisive move over the final one kilometer stretch, a long winding uphill to close the race. It worked as she picked off five runners over the final stretch running to an eighth place finish and a time of 19:25, which also ranks her eighth all-time for the Warriors.

It is a scientific marvel, cross country running; a test of one’s physical limits of speed, strength and endurance. It is that pureness of sport that attracts Sara and others to to the sport. A competitive desire embedded in our DNA that at its core is a test of will and human physiology. It is a test of who has the most guts, who can outlast.

Sara has that willingness and selfless desire to help the team. The only thing that might drive her more is the quest to earn a medal.

Sara will run in the California State Championship Saturday, November 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

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