FARMINGTON — Although she was initially on the fence, recent Navajo Prep graduate Sarah Chacon has since decided to take up Fort Lewis College on its offer to run track and field and cross-country at the school in Durango, Colo.
Accompanied by her coaches and her parents, Chacon officially committed to the school today when she signed her national letter of intent inside the gym of her former high school.
While she was unsure about continuing her athletic career as recently as two weeks ago, Chacon ultimately decided running at the next level presented too many positive factors to pass up.
"After actually going and talking to the coach, he really comforted me and gave me confidence, and so did my parents, too," Chacon said. "And financially, the money would help. So just multiple reasons kind of nudged me."
Chacon, who received a $2,000 scholarship and will major in exercise science, is following in the footsteps of Prep assistant coach Sampson Sage, who also graduated from Prep before going on to run at Fort Lewis. Sage said he put in a good word for Chacon with track and cross-country coach Mark Dutro, who he has known since 2001.
"Last year, I told Sarah that I do have a connection, so if you're interested, I can contact someone. But she was wishy -ashy," Sage said. "Then as the season progressed, I told her to at least look into it."
Stephanie McDonald, the head coach of both the Prep cross-country and track teams, said that although Chacon has always possessed the talent and drive, running in college wasn't always on her radar.
"I was surprised when she said she was going to do it, because there's other ways she could have gone." McDonald said. "She can sing, she can run, she's a well-rounded individual. Us coaches and her parents have been talking to her and trying to put a bug in her ear, letting her know, 'Hey, you can be great.' And you know, she's a got a great support system, and a lot of people who have her best interests in mind.'"
At the 3A state championship meet in May, Chacon put an exclamation point on a fine season by winning the 800 meters, placing second in the 1,600 and earning third in the 400, instantly installing her as one of the most decorated runners in Prep's school history.
McDonald said Chacon's decision to move on to Fort Lewis will have a profound influence on her former Lady Eagle teammates.
"It's a positive for her teammates to see her running at a college," McDonald said. "She doesn't realize the impact she'll have on girls running track and cross-country at this school for years to come."
Playing multiple sports at the college level can be overwhelming, but Chacon views it as an opportunity to get better in all aspects of both track and cross-country. She said she's ready to begin a new chapter of her life.
"I'm a little nervous and I'm a little excited," she said. "I'm excited to learn more about my technique and my breathing while I run, and just to move on from high school and have more freedom. I'm more excited than anything."
An NCAA Division II school, Fort Lewis competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.