Sarah Gorden: A Tale of Two Sports

Division I athletes are elite competitors, to be a member of any Division I team speaks volumes to an individual’s athletic ability, excelling at their craft and competing with other equally capable athletes. Yet some are especially talented, able to compete at a high level on multiple teams.

One such multi-sport athlete is freshman Sarah Gorden, who competes in the Big East as a member of both the DePaul women’s soccer and track and field teams.

Gorden, a defender on the women’s soccer squad, started all 17 matches she played in this past season, highlighted by a golden goal she scored against Minnesota Sept. 11, giving the Blue Demons a 2-1 overtime victory. On the track and field team, Gorden is exclusively a hurdler, most recently winning the 100m hurdles event at the DePaul Invitational April 21.

“It’s always been hard to do both [sports], especially competitively,” said Gorden. “But I stuck with it in high school and ended up pretty successful.”

Gorden, who hails from Elk Grove, Ill., was both an accomplished track and field athlete at James B. Conant High School and defender on club soccer team Eclipse Select Soccer Club, operating out of Libertyville, Ill.

“Soccer is something that I’ve been doing my whole life, ever since I was three or four years old,” said Gorden. “Then I moved to travel soccer and that’s when I realized I was fast. So in high school, I joined track and played soccer on the side, since both sports compete in the same season in Illinois.”

As a hurdler on Conant’s track team, Gorden was a three-time All-State performer, winning the 100m high hurdles title and finishing second in the 300m low hurdles at the 2011 IHSA state track meet as a senior. She was also the indoor state champion in the 55m high hurdles.

On the road to becoming a DePaul athlete, Gorden has had a great support system. Most notable are her parents, both of whom are DePaul alumni and former Blue Demon athletes. Her father Jeff was a dual sport athlete himself, competing in both track and cross country, while her mother played tennis. Gorden said they have both had “a huge influence on my sports, especially my dad,” who ran the 800m and the mile in track. “He’s crazy about track. He loves soccer, but he’s a big track fan.”

Another major influence outside of her family has been Rory Dames, who was Gorden’s club soccer coach at seven-time state champion Eclipse Select, a “big name for women’s soccer around the country,” according to Gorden.

Indeed, Dames, who is currently president of the club, has dedicated many years to developing youth soccer in the Chicagoland area and turning Eclipse Select into one of the top girls clubs in the country.

Gorden said Dames was “a huge reason why I even went [to DePaul],” and was given a scholarship with his help.

Bob Borczak, Gorden’s track and field coach at Conant High School, was another big influence on her.

“He got me into running hurdles,” said Gorden. “I’d never, ever even imagined running hurdles-in junior high, I won all the races without hurdles, and then he put me to hurdles and at first I was like, ‘no I’m not doing hurdles,’ but I ended up loving it.”

Though Gorden enjoys competing in both sports, she admits that the mechanics of the two do not always mesh, which makes training and preparation especially demanding.
“To some degree, [track and soccer] go hand in hand. Soccer helps me with track, track helps me with soccer, especially fitness-wise,” said Gorden. “But really, they’re both very different.

“Coming from soccer season going into track season, soccer changes my running form. In soccer, you’re running in all directions and you’re always on your toes, whereas in track, you’re running in a straight line and slightly turning,” said Gorden. “So soccer messes up my form and that’s why it takes me a while during track season to get back into track shape and get my times to go down.” It took her months to get in shape for track season after soccer. These months during the winter, despite being an offseason period between the fall soccer and spring track and field seasons, proved to be the most grueling for Gorden.

“Winter was my hardest season because I was going to both practices every day,” said Gorden. “So I would have 6 a.m. soccer practice and then 1 p.m. track, and that was really difficult. That was the hardest time for me to maintain focus with one sport, let alone with two, and I was tired, but it’s what I want to do. It’s what I’m passionate about.”

Gorden began track workouts at the end of November of last year, but did not include hurdle practice until March. Now, practicing every day at either Lane Tech High School or the Ray Meyer Fitness Center, Gorden has improved drastically and has thrived without early morning soccer workouts. And with the spring season over halfway complete, Gorden is well aware of the goals she hopes to accomplish next year.

“For soccer, my goal is definitely for us to make the Big East Tournament next year,” said Gorden. “Hopefully we’ll win a few more games. I think our team’s gonna be better next year, we’ve been working on our chemistry getting along and stuff. For track, I definitely want to break at least one of the hurdle records. And I definitely want to place in the Big East and make it to Regionals.”

With these goals in mind, Gorden is confident in her abilities and the progress she has made with both sports.

“This year was difficult, just being a freshman and getting into everything,” said Gorden. “But next year, I have my goals and I know the work I have to do to achieve them.”