Sara throws lot with UConn Huskies

Written by Bill Bloxsom, Sports Editor Friday, 12 February 2010 12:50

Lauren Sara runs for the sake of running with an eye toward the prize.

That mindset that was seared into the Bunnell High harrier at the outset of her career led to unparaled success in program history.

“Yes, I had goals, but they were secondary to giving my best every time out,” the daughter of Maureen and Wayne said during a series of interviews on National Signing Day in the school library on Feb. 3.

“I wanted to win the State Open, I finished fourth, so that’s missing. But I made it to Nationals and that was a stretch...a hard goal.”

The latest accolade for Sara, who accepted a scholarship to compete for the University of Connecticut in the Big East Conference, came when the Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, chose Sara as its 2009-10 Gatorade Connecticut Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

In its 25th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, the award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguished Sara as Connecticut’s best high school girls cross country runner.

Sara joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Kevin Garnett (1992-93, Maudlin HS, S.C.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.) and Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.).

Sara joins Gatorade Connecticut Girls Cross Country Runners of the Year Moira Kenny (2008-09, Immaculate) and Heather Stephens (2007-08, Ridgefield) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.

The 5-3 senior raced to the Class L state championship with a time of 18:29 and was Connecticut’s top finisher, third overall, at the New England Championships.

She also took first at the Woods Trail Run, the Wickham Park Invitational and the South-West Conference Championships.

Sara crossed the line in sixth at the 2009 Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships and finished 32nd at the national Foot Locker Championships.

“I’ve become friends with the girls I competed with over my career,” Sara said.

“At nationals, I roomed with Kelsey Lakowske from Boulder, Colorado, who finished sixth.

“Meg Ryan from Fairfield placed 36th and roomed with Megan Goethals from Rochester, Michigan, who won it all.

“We joked about how we were part of their success because of our pep talks.”

Sara is looking forward to working with veteran UConn coach Bill Morgan.

“I’m looking to run the 10,000 is college, it’s something different and their coach was a Canadian champion in the event,” Sara said.

Morgan is in his 28th year of coaching at the state school and is in his fifth season as head coach of the UConn women’s cross country/track and field programs.

The past two indoor seasons have been the most successful years in program history, as Morgan led the Huskies to numerous team records and championships.

UConn recorded three consecutive team titles, winning the Big East, ECAC and New England indoor championships, in a two-week period in the winter of 2008.

The Husky’s Victoria Flowers took first in the weight throw to lead her 23rd-ranked team at the New Balance Invitational at the Armory in New York City this past weekend.

“To be a part of the awards ceremony with four of the top-five teams in the country was an incredible feeling,” Morgan said.

“For this weekend we will enjoy the moment and Monday we’ll move onto two weeks of fine tuning in preparation for the Big East Championship.”

Next season that Sara will be part of that fine tuning and will be looking to earn a degree in elementary or secondary education at UConn.

Sara has maintained a B average in the classroom at Bunnell, where she has volunteered on behalf of the Special Olympics and as part of a local fund-raising campaign for cancer research.

“Lauren never has a bad day,” said David Johnson, her coach at Bunnell.

“It’s really amazing — every day you know she’s going to have a good race. This year she kept getting better and better. If there was another race after Foot Locker, I think she’d be even better in that one.

Sara said: “This spring at Bunnell I’ll run the mile and the 3200 and coach Ken Poisson will probably plug me in the 600 to improve my ability to finish my distance events with a stronger kick.