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More than an athlete: Exceeding the demands

Posted: June 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Valencia High student-athlete hit .308 batting average and had a 3.93 GPA. Valencia High student-athlete hit .308 batting average and had a 3.93 GPA.
Valencia High student-athlete hit .308 batting average and had a 3.93 GPA.

On the eastern wall of the Valencia High School gymnasium, there’s a board that makes it extremely apparent what sport has had the school’s greatest athletes.

The board lists the school’s female athletes of the year. Since 1999, eight of them have been softball players.

On the same wall are names of the top scholar athlete from each year.

Of all the names on the list, none are softball players.

That sign will need changing.

Sarah Solano, a 2012 Valencia High graduate and three-year varsity softball player is the first.

“We’ve had good students in the past, but this is definitely an accomplishment,” says Valencia head softball coach Donna Lee. “Just the dynamics of softball and how much she practices, it’s huge (that she’s Scholar Athlete of the Year).”

Between 2001 and 2010, Valencia’s biggest accomplishments were on the field — 10 straight Foothill League titles, two CIF-Southern Section division titles (2007, 2008), a national championship in 2007 and multiple individual honors including state player of the year awards for Jordan Taylor (2007) and Jessica Spigner (2008).

In 2012, the Vikings tied for second in the Foothill League.

Their biggest honor this season very well could have been Solano’s scholar athlete award.

“I’d rather be known as a student first,” Solano says. “Softball’s been very important, but school has always come first.”

Solano has a deep affection for softball.

She has been playing the game for the last nine years, dedicating much of her time to the demanding Valencia softball program and the prominent club softball team SoCal Choppers.

But Solano can’t be defined as a softball player.

There are other affections in her life.

Schoolwork is one.

She considers herself slightly nerdy. Solano’s mother Lauri says her daughter takes her school books with her to club softball tournaments so that between games she can head back to the car and study.

“It was never a question for her that she wouldn’t excel in the classroom — that was her first priority,” Lauri says. “But as hard as she worked in the classroom, she worked on the field. ... But Sarah, academically, never lacked because of softball.”

Another affection has been church.

During high school, Sarah volunteered for her church for confirmation.

On top of that, she found another place to volunteer.

Solano and her mother have volunteered at The Brittany Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of homeless dogs.

The student-athlete cleaned kennels and walked and fed dogs on a weekly basis.

“They’re sweet dogs and can’t do anything to help themselves,” Sarah says. “It’s a great organization and I like seeing how happy the dogs were after interacting with them.”

The 4.3-GPA student-athlete is going to George Mason University in Virginia this fall.

She will play softball for the Patriots next season.

But ultimately, she wants to pursue a career in the FBI. Her father, Carlos, is in law enforcement.

She also wants to intern at the White House.

“She is the type of daughter every father wants,” Carlos says. “She has a good heart, a good soul, but she has a work ethic I don’t think I’ve seen in this generation of kids. She knows if you want something in life, you have to work hard and give back.”

She goes to George Mason in late August. But before Solano leaves, there’s one thing the 17-year-old has not done that she gets to cross off her list this summer.

It’s something she sacrificed travel softball for.

Sarah Solano is going to be starting her first job.



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