There are high expectations for gifted high school athletes. And then there’s Sophia Gorriaran.
Last year, she finished her sophomore season at Moses Brown with two Rhode Island state records in indoor track and field and four more records during the outdoor season. This 16-year-old capped off an incredible year as the youngest runner at the 2021 U.S. Olympics Trials. Gorriaran finished 19th overall in the 800-meter run. Her time of 2 minutes 2.26 seconds broke Olympian Mary Decker's 45-year sophomore class record.
How will Gorriaran follow that up?
The Moses Brown junior will take aim at more state and national records this season. This year, Gorriaran has her sights set on the U.S. National 800-meter junior class record. The U.S. girls indoor record is owned by Olympic gold medalist Athing Mu, whose 2:03.78 is slower than Goriaran's sophomore record time at the trials.
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“I'm just looking to get stronger and faster,” Gorriaran said. “And running [events] above and below like 800 and just like getting a new [personal best] and just working on improving and hopefully getting some more records this year.”
Setting records and dominating the competition
Last year, she set Rhode Island state indoor track and field records in the 500-meter and 800-meter races. She won state titles in the 1,500 meters, 300 meters and in the 4-by-400 relay. This season, nearly every event is on the table for Gorriaran. When asked what she hoped to run, she noted “the 3K, 400, 600, 500, 300, 2-mile,” and paused before adding “and 55-meter, maybe.”
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This fall, she finished second in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Girls Cross Country State Championship Meet. After taking off a couple of weeks, Gorriaran ran unattached at the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener at Boston University. Despite recovering from the flu, she dominated the 800-meter run, beating out the other Division I collegiate athletes by eight seconds with a time of 2:04.07, and finished second in the 300-meter run with a time of 39.35.
All eyes will be on her again as this indoor season starts up. Sure, plenty of pressure is on this teenager, but in the world of track and field, that’s expected — especially for a rare and special talent such as Gorriaran. She qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials at age 15 and then raced against the best women in the country.
Experience, she said, showed her that she could handle the pressure — no matter how high the stakes. Following the Trials, Gorriaran went to the University of Oregon for the Outdoor Nationals to compete in two different events. She finished second in the mile and third in the 400-meter run.
“It helped keep me focused, like not putting too much pressure on myself or getting too nervous before a really big race - the biggest race in my life,” Gorriaran said of the trials. “Getting so much experience like under my belt at a young age, it's just going to be really helpful for me in the future. Just knowing how to handle those things like bigger meets, it is just going to be really good for my career.”
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High expectations but still grounded
Following her success at the Olympic Trials, expectations are high, but her life has really remained the same. She is coached by her father, Steven, who was a multisport athlete at Brown, along with John Barnes. She has leaned on her older brother, Max, who runs at Boston University, and her older sister, Natasha, who plays lacrosse at the University of Pennsylvania.
Seeing them play sports, deal with time management and go through the recruiting process has helped her. As one would expect, Gorriaran already has colleges recruiting her.
“At home, nothing’s really changed, like I still feel the same pretty much ... nothing's changed really for me, necessarily,” Gorriaran said. “But I'd say peoples expectations of me have changed a bit and are expecting more out of me.”
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Between training and academics, this junior’s plate is full. Her coaches have her run workouts Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then one day on the weekend. On Tuesday and Thursday, she has easier runs. Gorriaran also plays year-round lacrosse, where she’s an All-American. It’s a busy schedule but she enjoys staying busy.
“Yeah, I do,” Gorriaran said. “I wouldn't really know what to do if I wasn’t busy.”
Slowing down has never been Gorriaran’s style anyway.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI High School Track: Moses Brown runner Sophia Gorriaran set goals