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Moses Brown’s Sophia Gorriaran Conquers The Distance Challenge

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Photo: Steve Mazzone / OceanStateRunning.com

Say Sophia Gorriaran’s name and you’re bound to conjure up all sorts of positive vibes throughout the middle-distance running community.

Last winter as a freshman, Gorriaran turned plenty of heads at the R.I. Interscholastic League Indoor Track & Field Championship when she captured the 1,000 (3:03.61) and 1,500 meters (4:40.99).

In August, she flew to Nashville to compete in the 800-meter run at the Music City Distance Carnival. Awaiting this 15-year-old from Providence who attends Moses Brown was a star-studded group that featured past NCAA champs and current pros. Gorriaran was far and away the youngest competitor in the nine-person field, hence that’s what makes her fifth-place finish (2:02.97) all the more remarkable.

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This fall has seen the now-sophomore tackle a new host of challenges, the kind that go hand-in-hand with cross-country – the long-distance branch of the running circuit.

To go from specialized track-based workouts to grueling affairs that involve hills and muddy trails in unpredictable weather conditions … let’s just say that Gorriaran has adapted quite nicely to the new demands challenging her. Fresh off capturing last weekend’s Class C Championship in 19 minutes, 14 seconds, Gorriaran falls into the W.W. category – Worth Watching – in the R.I. state meet on tap this Saturday at Ponaganset High’s Covered Bridge Trail.

“Definitely a lot more mileage than I had been getting at this time last year,” said Gorriaran. “Just putting in more work. You have to get used to running faster but for longer.”

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Photo: Steve Mazzone / OceanStateRunning.com

Gorriaran isn’t completely new to the nuances of cross-country. As a ninth grader, she competed in several freshman-only events. In Rhode Island, freshman high school runners are asked to cover four kilometers while junior varsity and varsity runners run 5K races.

At the 2019 Ocean State Invitational held at Warwick’s Goddard Park, Gorriaran won the freshman girls race in a time of 15:27. Three weeks later, she ran in the freshman state meet and also emerged victorious (14:41). Not long after reigning supreme at East Greenwich High School – site of freshman states –  Gorriaran shifted her focus to the indoor season. In an effort to remain on a training plan that would allow her to flourish as a middle-distance performer, the world of 5K running would have to wait until she became a sophomore.

Of late, Gorriaran has put the state’s cross-country field on notice. On Oct. 10 at the Wheeler School Farm, she placed first in a dual meet that included La Salle Academy senior Kaylie Armitage, last year’s individual cross-country state champ on the girls’ side. Running on a mostly-flat 3.1-mile course, Gorriaran cruised to a winning time of 18:16 with Armitage placing second (18:25).

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(L-R) Kaylie Armitage, Sophia Gorriaran – Photo: Steve Mazzone / OceanStateRunning.com

In terms of her ability as a cross-country runner, what Gorriaran accomplished the Saturday before Columbus Day qualifies as a breakthrough performance. If there were any lingering concerns about whether she could handle the increase in race-day mileage, her win over an accomplished runner of Armitage’s caliber provided staunch evidence that no distance was too great.

“I wasn’t sure if I could go that fast, but I felt pretty good staying with Kalie,” said Gorriaran. “I wanted to keep working the whole time and see if I had anything at the end which I did.”

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(L-R) Sophia Gorriaran, Kaylie Armitage – Photo: Steve Mazzone / OceanStateRunning.com

Gorriaran is the youngest in a running family that has also made noticeable splashes on the lacrosse circuit. Her brother Max ran at La Salle before heading to Boston University. Her sister Natasha also runs for Moses Brown and has earned All-State honors in lacrosse. Her dad Steve was a multi-sport athlete at Toll Gate and ran at Brown University.

“I love having people that I know who I can talk about running with. My mom (Carine) also runs, just for fun,” said Sophia. “I’ve been training with my brother. It’s nice because he pushes me a lot. Even though running isn’t my sister’s main sport, she’s still very competitive.”

Many Rhode Islanders are probably unaware that Sophia Gorriaran is an accomplished lacrosse player herself as well. She’s still waiting to play her first high school game since the pandemic’s intensity forced the cancellation of the spring 2020 season. A midfielder, Gorriaran learned in late July of her selection to the Under Armour Underclass Games Super North Regional that took place last month in Virginia Beach, Va.

“Track and lacrosse are both equally my favorite sports,” said Gorriaran, who earned all-tournament honors at the Under Armour invitational after finishing as the second-leading scorer.

Saturday’s state meet will not represent Gorriaran’s last hurrah as a cross-country runner in 2020. She has two races lined up – one in Alabama in a few weeks, while the other takes place in New Jersey the first weekend in December.

“I wouldn’t want to run 5K on the track. Having the trails to break things up is nice. Plus, I like the scenery,” said Gorriaran, a runner who’s no longer known as just a middle-distance specialist.