STRATFORD–Lauren Sara remembers walking through the athletic wing of Bunnell High School and seeing all the plaques of those honored as the school’s legendary Hall of Famers.
On Thursday night, Sara becomes one of them.
The former Bunnell distance running standout will be inducted into the Bunnell High Athletic Hall of Fame that night during the school’s 2019 Hall of Fame and Senior Recognition Banquet at Vazzano’s Four Seasons Banquet Hall in Stratford.
“Honestly, it means a lot,” Sara said. “I remember in high school, seeing all those plaques and all the different athletes, and I wanted to be a part of it. But I really didn’t know what it meant until after I graduated.”
What it means is that Sara is one of the greatest athletes in her high school’s history.
A 2010 graduate of Bunnell, Sara was perhaps one of the school’s greatest ever track athletes—especially at distance events.
In the fall of 2009, as a senior, Sara won the Class L state cross country championship and placed fourth in the State Open. That was a year after placing second in Class L meet and fourth at the open.
She followed up her 2009 fourth-place showing at the State Open by placing third in the New England High School championships.
She wrapped up her strong senior season by placing sixth at the Footlocker Northeast championships, qualifying her to compete at Foot Locker National in Sand Diego, where she placed 33rd with a time of 18 minutes, 30 seconds.
She calls that national championship meet appearances one of the highlights of her running career.
She also carried that momentum over into her final two track seasons at Bunnell.
During her final season, Sara won the 1,600 and 3,200 in the SWC championships. She also won the Class L championship in the 3,200 and placed second at the State Open.
During her senior season on the spring track circuit, Sara was second in the 3,200-meter run in the Class L meet and sixth in the State Open meet.
She later placed fifth in the New England championship meet with a time of 10:45.44.
Not bad for an athlete who started running just to get in shape for basketball.
“I was convinced I’d something big on the court,” Sara said. “This is coming from somebody who was cut in sixth grade.”
Over the summer heading into her sophomore season, Sara actually ran and came into the fall sports season in vastly different shape.
“Once you put effort into it, and once you start seeing improvement, it’s motivation,” she said. “That was the turning point.”
She qualified for State Opens as a sophomore, finishing 56th.
A year later, she was fourth and running at the next level proved to be a do-able goal.
Her success in high school led her to the University of Connecticut, where she was one of the Huskies top runners her sophomore season.
That fall, she became just the fourth UConn runner to qualify for the NCAA championship meet. She placed 53rd overall.
“It was definitely really exciting, but you see a lot more injuries and hardship within the sport,” Sara said. “But it all makes it more rewarding.”
After graduating from UConn with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Sara moved to Atlanta and ran with the Atlanta Track Club.
Injuries, however, mounted and Sara finally realized her high-level competitive running career might be over.
“It just didn’t work out,” she said. “I just had to accept it. I don’t compete anymore, but I still go out and run.”
Sara has returned to Connecticut and is living in her hometown while working at a preschool in Norwalk.
Come Thursday, Sara will walk into the annals of her school’s athletic history when she becomes a full-fledged member of the Bunnell High Athletic Hall of Fame.