Soria’s driven to finish a tough road

Placer senior returns to sport that 'killed my dad' 2 years ago
By: Dave Krizman, Special to the Journal
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When Placer High cross country athlete Andrew Soria’s father collapsed and died while running with him, the Auburn teenager faced the challenge of his life. Could he recover and continue to excel in the classroom and on the trails in the American River Canyon? Or, would he be swallowed up in a black hole of grief? In November of 2007, soon after Andrew’s sophomore year on the cross country team ended, he and his parents drove to Davis to run in the annual Davis Turkey Trot. Andrew ran in the 10k event while his parents, Eduardo and Deanna, ran in the 5k event. Andrew recalls, “Just yards from the finish line, my mom stepped in front of me, placed her hands on my chest, and told me I had to stop. ‘Something has happened to your dad. You need to stop now.’ Your dad fell while running; we don’t know if he is dead or not.’ I knew my mom was trying to brace me for the worst, for she would have never mentioned the word ‘dead’ if she didn’t already know.” Eduardo Soria, age 40, had died of a massive heart attack while running. The autopsy report would later show that Mr. Soria had 99 percent blockage. With his father’s sudden death began the descent into the black hole for both Andrew and his mother. “I can remember being at home and my mom crying and turning to me for support and thinking about death while my friends played video games at their homes,” Andrew said. “The death of my father forced me to become the man of the house. I couldn’t enjoy the life of a normal teenager.” Andrew stopped running, something he had done since the fifth grade, his junior year because, “I wanted to push running aside because it’s what killed my dad.” Remarkably analytical would be the best way to describe how Andrew has dealt with the loss of his father. Andrew’s reasons for returning to running have met two needs. “I needed to find a purpose for me, and running does this. It helps me stay healthy and reminds me to eat well. Also, I do it for my dad. I want to do something my dad couldn’t do; I want to cross the finish line for him.” According to Gordon Sproul, one of Andrew’s closest friends on the cross country team, “Every practice we run together he is running well. He is staying close to me. I have seen a ton of improvement.” Combining his improvement on the trails in the American River Canyon where the cross country team trains with his success in the classroom, Andrew has climbed out of his darkness. Andrew’s coach, Randall Fee, speaks glowingly of his senior runner. “He was a big surprise in the early July workouts. He was lean and a running machine. From the first workout in July, his intensity was so much better than his first two years. Of our top seven runners, he is our number five runner. His hard work has paid off and will continue to pay off.” The future is now bright for Andrew. His current GPA of 4.2 has him on track for valedictorian at Placer. His SAT score of 2120 (out of a possible 2400) places him in the elite of graduating seniors. His success on The College Boards’ Advanced Placement Tests are remarkable: 5 (5 is the highest score possible) on the Language and Composition Test; 5 on the Spanish Test; 5 on the U.S. History Test; 4 on the European History Test taken as a sophomore; 3 on the Physics Test. It must be noted that Andrew self-taught himself the physics curriculum. He hopes to attend Pitzer or Pomona College, part of the Claremont Colleges in southern California, UCLA, or Reed College in Portland, Ore. Andrew has shown that you don’t have to be first, second or third across the finish line to be a real winner. Crossing the finish line with your future awaiting you makes Andrew a winner.