Last May, Sara Tran’s athletic career was at a crossroads. Her body beaten by the constant pounding of competing in gymnastics for eight years, Tran suffered a C5 vertebrae fracture, or in simple terms, a broken neck.
Surgeons needed to fuse Tran’s C5 and C6 vertebrae together and insert four screws and a plate in her neck. Incredibly enough, the Sobrato High junior was able to resume physical activities in December. But she and her parents ultimately decided to make the tough decision that gymnastics would no longer be a viable sport to compete in going forward.
Enter track and field. Looking for a new sport to fill the void of gymnastics, Tran opted for track and field upon the advice of her dad, Tuan.
“I really thought of doing diving, but my dad really wanted me to do track so I took his advice,” Sara said. “I also had a few friends doing track so that helped me lean toward track. I also don’t mind running, which helps.”
Having never competed in a sport outside gymnastics, Tran didn’t know what to expect before the track and field practice started in February. It’s hard to imagine a better debut season for Tran, who has season-best times of 12.83 seconds in the 100-meter dash, 26.59 in the 200 and 1:01.61 in the 400.
Tran’s 100 time is the 16th best mark in the Central Coast Section, her 200 is the 17th fastest time and her 400 is the 24th best. Her 100 and 200 times rank first in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Santa Teresa Division. Safe to say, Tran has been pleasantly surprised with her meteoric rise.
“The 100 has been my highlight because being able to break 13 seconds was a big accomplishment,” said Tran, who carries a 4.3 GPA. “And getting down to 26 in the 200 was really nice, too.”
Tran is believed to have broken the school record in the 100 with her 12.83 time. She’s now gunning for the school record in the 200, which she’s been told is 26.39 seconds. Incredibly enough, Tran is already close to beating that time in her inaugural season. Tran has reason to be optimistic because she’s establishing at least one new personal-record seemingly in every meet.
“I’m excited because I know I can get my times down,” she said. “I’m focusing on form so I can peak for BVALs and CCS. Knowing I have a good baseline and getting consistent times has really been rewarding.”
The Sobrato girls are 5-0 and the odds-on favorite to win a league championship. In addition to Tran, freshman Shaunise Tuua has impressed in the 100, ranking second in the Santa Teresa with a time of 13.49. The 4×100 relay team of Tran, Tuua, Sophia Delos Santos and Mia White rank first in the Santa Teresa at 52.46 seconds.
On the boys side, Nathan Ortiz ranks second in the division in the 200 at 23.48, third in the 100 at 11.56 and third in the high jump at 5 feet, 4 inches. Michael Gabbani ranks first in the 400 in 53.59, and Sobrato coach Andrea Tuua said she’s proud of Gabbani for adjusting from the long distance events—he’s a cross country standout where races are typically 3.0 miles—to the mid-distance track events.
Tuua said the boys team has suffered some injuries, but they’ve had some standout performers as noted above. Tran has fallen in love with track and field, no surprise since her first love of gymnastics was essentially taken away.
Thirteen months ago, Tran was at gymnastics practice when she felt pain in her neck. Gymnasts are known for having a high pain tolerance, and Tran didn’t think twice about it.
“I didn’t think it was that bad because I got injured a few times before so I just blew it off,” she said. “We waited a whole week before going to the doctor who told us I would need surgery for it. It was very tough. I really thought there wasn’t going to be anything to fulfill my passion for gymnastics. I loved waking up each day knowing I could be better the next day and when that wasn’t there for me, I didn’t know what to do. I used to practice four hours a day and that gap really made me think about what I had to do in my life.”
Tran found a new love of sport and a Sobrato team strong on camaraderie.
“We’re all encouraging each other, cheering each other to the finish line and making their PRs that day,” she said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]