Usually when a high school athlete like Sara Tran has her senior season cut short due to injury, it makes for a rather depressing time.
After all, most seniors aren’t good enough to compete in college athletics, so playing sports in high school is the end of the line for many of them. However, in mid-April, around the same time Tran realized she would’t be able to return to competition this season, she signed a letter of intent to compete in track and field in college.
At a NCAA Division I program, no less. The Sobrato High senior will be attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Tran was honored at a ceremonial signing event at Sobrato on May 17. She got emotional as Sobrato coach Andrea Tuua spoke on her behalf.
Tuua highlighted Tran’s humble demeanor, work ethic and being a great teammate. Even though Tran was injured for most of the season, she accompanied the team and cheered them on at invitationals and went as far to help the squad when it hosted home meets with setting up and taking away the hurdles.
“Coach Tuua’s talk was very heartfelt,” said Tran, who was surrounded at the ceremonial signing event by family and friends. “I don’t get that emotional that easily, but I really felt the love coming out of her speech and knowing how it came from the right place out of her heart. It was also a little sad knowing I won’t see the whole team again [in the same setting].”
Tran was only able to compete in a handful of meets this year before being sidelined by a high left ankle sprain. A gymnast growing up, Tran only started competing in track and field last year. She made the most of her time, immediately putting up impressive marks.
In her 2022 junior season, Tran finished third in both the 100 and 200-meter dash in the Blossom Valley Athletic League Championship Finals. She recorded a season-best 12.82 seconds in the Central Coast Section Semifinals and a 26.39 in the 200, the latter a personal-record (PR).
Going into her senior season, Tran was excited, confident that a strong off-season of training and a year of experience under her belt would result in faster times. And in one of the early premier meets of the season, the K-Bell Track and Field Classic, she hit a PR of 12.78 in the 100, which stood as a top-10 CCS time through March.
However, Tran suffered the foot injury leading up to the K-Bell and took the next week off before running in a league duel meet with Oak Grove. Still in pain, Tran took another two weeks off after that, hoping her foot would heal.
But the injury was more serious than she anticipated, and in early April a boot was placed on her left foot, effectively shutting her down for the rest of the season. Tran’s story didn’t end there, though, as she signed her letter of intent in mid-April, realizing a goal that only started a year ago.
“After last year I wanted to do college track,” she said. “Based on my times and how much I could still improve, I knew I could compete in college, whether it was Division I, Division II, or Division III. … I’m happy when I finally made my decision to go there, because I was kind of on edge and really didn’t know if I wanted to do track, especially how senior season ended. So, I made my decision and really found a place I like for athletics and a place where I can fulfill my academic goals.”
Tran took a visit to the Sacred Heart campus last September and said she loved the small community environment and the beautiful scenery.
“It had everything I wanted,” she said.
Tran said in her conversations with the Sacred Heart coaches, they liked how “driven I was and saw a lot of potential in me.”