Sutherland takes a chance on Texas
Nov. 14, 2012
Mallory Majcher, Texas Media Relations
After crossing the finish line at the cross country state race her senior year at Highland Park High School, Texas junior Sara Sutherland swore she would never run competitively again. Her plan after high school was to attend Texas A&M or the University of Georgia, pledge a sorority and leave her cross country success behind her.
That all changed when Texas Women's Cross Country coach Steve Sisson contacted her.
"Steve tried to get ahold of me for a while," Sutherland says. "I didn't call him back at first, but when I eventually did, he convinced me to come to Texas for a visit."
Going into her recruiting trip, Sutherland was afraid she would not fit in to the collegiate athletic culture. But after spending a few days with the athletes and coaches, Sutherland fell in love with the Texas Women's Cross Country and Track & Field program.
"I had this preconceived notion that collegiate student-athletes were very uptight people, but I got to Texas and everybody who I met shattered that presumption," Sutherland says. "It was just so incredible. I definitely could not have asked for a better visit."
For the first time since running in the high school state meet, Sutherland questioned if she really had taken her last steps as a runner.
Although she had a different vision for herself, Sutherland could not help but feel that Texas was the right place for her. Before going to bed one night, Sutherland sat down with her father to pray about her decision -- go to Texas and continue her running career or embark on a more traditional college experience elsewhere.
"We had a bulletin board in our school library where you could pin your name on the map where you were going to college," Sutherland recalls.
The next morning, Sutherland proudly pinned her name in Austin, Texas and sealed her future as a Longhorn student-athlete.
Over the past two and a half years at Texas, Sutherland has grown to bleed burnt orange with the rest of Longhorn Nation. Traditions she once thought were "cheesy," like singing `Texas Fight,' now bring tears to her eyes.
"Texas has really become my home," she says. "I am so proud to wear Texas across my chest."
The pride and dedication Sutherland has for the Texas women's running program also stems from the support of Coach Sisson.
"I have so much respect for [Coach Sisson]. He is someone who encourages me to be a better person and work my hardest each day," Sutherland says.
Sisson has a mutual respect for Sutherland and believes that she is a key factor in the success of this program.
"I tell my athletes all the time that they can be as good as they want to be. Sara Sutherland is truly the epitome of that statement," Sisson says. "Our athletes, because of the leadership of someone like Sara, have the ability to believe they can be great."
Thus far in her career as a collegiate student-athlete, Sutherland has been a leader for UT on the cross country course as well as on the track. This fall, she finished third overall at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships, the highest finish by a Longhorn since 1998. She also holds the school record in the indoor 5,000-meters (15:53.73), which earned her All-America First Team honors at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Sutherland and her teammates are making final preparations for the NCAA Cross Country Championships this weekend in Louisville, Ky. For Sutherland, it will be her third trip to Nationals in as many years, and she believes that with focus, hard work and discipline, UT will be successful on Saturday.
Sutherland's achievements at The University of Texas makes her story one to inspire future student-athletes and future Longhorns all around the nation.
"It really pays to go out on a limb, take chances and do something different," Sutherland says. "This truly has been the most wonderful experience of my life."