The Decision Behind Sophia Gorriaran's College Choice

* Sophia Gorriaran made her collegiate decision on Friday, choosing the Harvard Crimson 

Photo Credit: Aisha McAdams

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When it came time for Sophia Gorriaran to envision where she should spend the next four years of her life, a handful of moments likely came into focus. 

And they were close to home. 

The best 800 meter race of her career took place in Boston, inside the Boston University Track and Field Center. So too was one of the first races of her life: A two-lap, 400 meter jaunt around that same oval with her sister, Natasha, when she was just 8-years-old. 

A modest rundown of her career bests over the indoor season showcases PRs in the 60m, 300m, 400m, 500m, 800m and the mile. All were achieved in Boston. 

So maybe there was something there when Gorriaran narrowed her final five choices down to two, picking between the Texas Longhorns and the Harvard Crimson. 

Harvard Square was just a 2.5 mile jog from that same track.  

On Friday, Gorriaran made it official, announcing her intention to sign with Harvard, an Ivy league program with plenty of history in track and field. 

* Sophia Gorriaran was the youngest female to ever compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021 

Photo Credit: Aisha McAdams

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"I have decided on Harvard University," she told MileSplit on Wednesday. "I thought ultimately the location, the coaches, the team itself, from the academic standpoint and just the whole environment there, I thought that would be the best option for me." 

Harvard has an indoor facility, too -- the Gordon Indoor Track -- and plenty of history, with Gabby Thomas, a 2019 graduate, earning a bronze at 200 meters at the Tokyo Olympics. 

But athletics were not Gorriaran's sole focus, either. 

With plans to earn a degree from one of the country's most prestigious universities, Gorriaran, MileSplit's third-ranked recruit in the Class of 2023, has focuses beyond the track. Ultimately, she wanted the best of both worlds. 

"I think the combination between the academic piece and athletic piece narrowed it down for me," she said. "The combination at both of those schools would have been the best fit for me personally and to like grow as a person and an athlete. I like the environment for both schools, even though they're both different."

At Harvard, there are obvious pipelines to success in various fields of academics. But on the track, Gorriaran also has intentions of one day turning professional and running at the Olympics. She has hopes of training and competing with the best in the world. 

The holder of a world U18 and U20 record in the outdoor 600m and another in the U18 category for the indoor 800m, those races place Gorriaran in elite company. She's run a lifetime best of 2:00.58 indoors, which places her second all-time; it's also a junior class record. She was the youngest female to ever run at the Olympic Trials in 2021 -- managing to do so when she was just 15, a few days shy of her birthday. 

Gorriaran, who owns various national class records, has also run everything from the 300m up to the 3K and is the holder of 11 Rhode Island records. 

Over the recruiting process, she said, Harvard met eye-to-eye with her and her family on details surrounding her potential development over the next few years. She credited the coaches at Harvard -- Jason Saretsky, Alex Gibby, Kathy Newburry, among others -- as being communicative and helpful over the recruiting process. 

"I think they played a pretty big role in my decision," she said. "I think Harvard was willing to give me a lot of individualized attention and put what's best for me definitely in the equation.

"I think just the individualized attention, the willingness to work with me and hearing what I had to say, was a big part of it."

Another part of the 17-year-old's choice was having quality infrastructure around her. She will be roughly an hour from her home of Providence, Rhode Island, and a few minutes from her brother, Max, who attends Boston University. 

This also couldn't be discounted: Gorriaran felt like she could build a sisterhood with the Crimson.

After seeing the bond her sister Natasha formed with her University of Pennsylvania lacrosse teammates, Sophia felt like that was a priority in her choice, too. 

    "I just loved how they were really tight and they were really nice to each other and friends, which I loved," she said. "The distance girls and the sprint girls and the jumps girls were tight. I loved that about Harvard."

    Entering college, Gorriaran could make a run at Harvard indoor records in the 500m (1:10.23), 600m (1:30.52) and 800m (2:02.77) and mile (4:32.30), not to mention outdoor marks in the 800m (1:59.73) and 1,500m (4:10.94).

    Her father, Steven, even thinks his daughter could one day be one of the world's best milers. Gorriaran, the country's No. 1 athlete at 500m, 800m, 1K and the mile, currently owns a mile best of 4:37.54.

    The best part yet? Gorriaran has a few months left to go and can pursue her biggest ambitions: A new national record in the 800m and her first sub-2:00 minute time. 

    "I'm excited to have my decision out there and take the weight off my shoulders and at this point, just run as fast as I can," she said. 

    Not far behind, though, are the memories Gorriaran has formed in the sport. 

    "I've been running since I was 3.5 or four," she said. "It's always been something that I've always loved. I love the challenge and competing against people. Honestly, whatever sport it is, I just love competing."

    Photo Credit: Aisha McAdams