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After setting world record, R.I. high school runner on pace for Olympics

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Moses Brown junior Sophia Gorriaran and her father (and coach), Steve Gorriaran, talk about the smallest state’s big running community.

PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, high school runner Sophia Gorriaran recounted her recent world record and looked ahead to the 2024 Olympics.

Gorriaran, a 16-year-old junior at the Moses Brown School, set a new Under-18 women’s world record in an indoor 800-meter race at Boston University on Feb. 11. An announcer called it “The greatest women’s high school race ever in the 800.″ Letsrun.com called it “one of the most incredible races in the history of US high school track & field.”

Both Gorriaran and Roisin Willis, a 17-year-old Wisconsin runner, smashed the US high school indoor 800-meter record. Willis won the race in 2:00.06, taking nearly 2 seconds off Sammy Watson’s previous record of 2:01.78 from 2017.


Gorriaran finished fourth in 2:00.58, beating her own Under-18 world record of 2:02.44 from last year, according to World Athletics. (The Under-18 category excludes Willis because she will turn 18 this year).

Crossing the finish line and seeing that time on the race clock was “a great feeling,” Gorriaran said. “I’ve kind of wanted this for a while.”

Her father and coach, Steve Gorriaran, said he yelled “holy [cow]” when he saw her final time. “I went over, grabbed her, and picked her up and celebrated,” he said. “I just yelled at her, ‘Hey Sophia, that’s a new world record!’ And she was like, ‘Wow!’ ”

“Only one woman in NCAA history has ever run faster than that, and that was Athing Mu, who just won the gold medal,” Steve Gorriaran said. “So what Roisin and Sophia ran was really the second and third fastest times ever run by anybody [in the United States] in college, high school, period.”

Sophia Gorriaran set the world record despite spraining her ankle two days before the race. She said she was warming up on the track when she accidentally stepped on some starting blocks and rolled her ankle. But she said the swelling went down considerably before the race, and running in a straight line didn’t hurt as much as it might have if she was playing lacrosse — a sport she plays at Moses Brown.


With the Winter Olympics underway in Beijing, the Gorriarans are starting to think about the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. She was the youngest athlete running in the 2021 US Olympic Track and Field Trials, and she said she hopes to qualify for the Olympic team at the next trials.

She has been running since she was 3 years old, when she would tag along with her father, brother, and sister to run with the Providence Cobras, a youth track club, and long-time Hope High School coach Thom Spann. Right way, they could tell she had talent.

In Providence, she benefits from the guidance of Jon Barnes, a coach with the Ronald McDonald House of Providence Running Club. And she benefits from a running community that includes Kim Smith, a New Zealand Olympian who was a cross-country champion at Providence College; Molly Huddle, who has set US records in the 5K and 10K; and Huddle’s husband, Brown assistant coach Kurt Benninger.

“The running community in Rhode Island is outstanding,” Steve Gorriaran said. “Rhode Island, for its size, has got to have some of the best runners in the country.”

Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.