By MIKE SMITH
On May 5, Harrison graduate Nina Sarmiento—running for Binghamton University—placed fifth in the 400m hurdles in the America East Conference Championships.
The finish wasn’t just a reflection of the immense talent of the former Huskies track star, it was a testament to the sophomore’s dedication and resilience in the face of adversity.
At Vermont University, Sarmiento, who came into the meet as the 10th seed, raced her way to a fifth-place finish with a time of 1:03 flat, shaving .4 seconds off a first-place performance at West Point just a week earlier.
In her junior year at Harrison High School, Sarmiento tore her ACL. Though the injury sidelined her for nearly two years, her showing at the AEC Championships last week proved beyond a doubt Sarmiento is back in the game.
Harrison track coach Dominic Zanot said it was easy to tell from the start Sarmiento was a runner with immense talent, but it was her determination that made her a true standout.
“We knew she was bound for big things, even as an eighth grader” Zanot said. “It’s no surprise at all the kind of performance she had.”
Kate Zanot, who also worked closely with Sarmiento during her Harrison days, knows first-hand the Bearcat sophomore didn’t have an easy road to recovery. Like Sarmiento, Zanot suffered an ACL tear during her collegiate track days and said the recovery is as much about mental strength as it is about repairing the knee.
“Her knee was healthy again in about a year,” Kate Zanot said. “But as far as competing at that level; Division I, that takes about a year of training. I know it was disappointing for her, but she stuck with it when a lot of other athletes might just have given up after their freshman year.”
The Zanots agree Sarmiento—whose younger sister Lea just had a fine showing at the league championship meet—has been a great inspiration for current Harrison runners.
“She’s put in the extra work to get back,” Dom Zanot said. “It’s so great to see an athlete of that caliber come back and redeem herself like that.”
“It’s nice for the team, especially for the girls,” Kate Zanot said. “You hear about the male athletes who come out of the program and reach the great levels of success, but here you have a girl who had to overcome all sorts of difficulties to get to where she is.”