Sara Larquier: Overcoming Adversity
May 10, 2006
When Sara Larquier arrived on Grounds in the fall of 2003 she was a self-described “bright-eyed kid” from California looking to experience new things on the east coast. That bright-eyed kid went on to become the Virginia softball program’s third All-American. The success Larquier has achieved on the field and at the University of Virginia has come despite losing the most important person in her life – her mom.
In March of 2003, the beginning of Sara’s freshman season, her mom, Charna Larquier, was diagnosed with cancer. “She called me and told me right after the beginning of our season that she had been diagnosed with cancer,” Larquier said. Charna’s condition took a turn for the worse the following January to the point that Sara made a trip back home to see her mom.
“I went home in January to see her because that was when things took a turn for the worse,” said Larquier. “The trip was just like old times, like nothing was wrong. She was my strong mom. Leaving here was never in the playing cards; she said that early on. The first day she told me she had cancer my first year, she said “no matter what you have to finish: it’s not an option.” I knew that was one of her last wishes, so I wasn’t going to leave Charlottesville until I was done.”
Despite her mom’s deteriorating health, Sara somehow managed to have a spectacular sophomore season in 2004 – which included a spring break trip to California where her mom was able to watch her play. Larquier registered an impressive .365 batting average with 49 RBI and 27 runs scored. Among her 72 hits were 18 doubles, six triples and seven home runs for 123 total bases. The third baseman/second baseman earned All-ACC honors and then she was tabbed first-team All-Southeast Region. With the All-Region selection, Larquier became eligible for All-America honors and she was rewarded for her outstanding play as a 2004 Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Third Team All-American on May 26, 2004.
Larquier had no idea about the process of becoming an All-American. Former head coach Cheryl Sprangel called Larquier and told her she had made the All-Region Team. “I really didn’t know what that was and I didn’t know that it was the stepping stone to becoming an All-American,” Larquier remembered. “Then a couple of days later coach called me and told me I was named an All-American and that was awesome. That was the most awesome thing that ever happened to me in my career. I didn’t expect it. Looking back at my sophomore season it was kind of surreal with everything that was happening with my mom. That accolade was never a personal goal of mine and just to be tabbed that was a great honor. What put the icing on the cake was that I was able to share that with my mom. That was indescribable.
“My mom really helped me make it through the season,” noted Sara. “She always tried to hide things from me – how she was feeling; she always wanted what was best for me. Whether she just had a round of chemo, or she was having a great day; it was always “how did you do today” or “what happened”. She was really a big support factor for me. Just trying to make her proud and knowing that together we decided that Virginia was the right place for me and that I needed to finish here no matter what happened was what got me through the year. So just laying that foundation, particularly since it was still early in my career, despite the worst case scenario was important.”
That worst-case scenario came on June 3, 2004 when Sara’s mom lost her battle with cancer.
“If her battle was won alone on heart and shear fight, she would have beat it with flying colors,” Sara said. “Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
Despite losing her mom, Larquier continued to thrive in 2005 and was named the ACC Softball Player of the Year and garnered All-ACC honors for the third consecutive season. She hit .348 last season with a school-record 34 extra-base hits. Among the 34 extra-base hits were a school-record tying 19 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs. She registered 130 total bases and drove in an impressive 54 runs.
The 2006 season has not gone as well as Larquier or the rest of the team wanted. New head coach Karen Johns and the rest of her staff have been a breath of fresh air and brought in tons of new ideas to the program. But for some reason the season hasn’t went as Larquier had hoped.
“My senior season definitely hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked, especially because of the way things went in the fall,” said Larquier. “We were hungry and busted our butts to take our game to the next level. I know I haven’t contributed to the team the way I needed to, but the season isn’t over, we still have the ACC Tournament. We are right there and we just need to break through. We are all biting at the bit to break through.”
Larquier’s name dots the Virginia softball record book. She owns seven career school records, including the ACC’s all-time RBI mark with 180, and stands second in four more categories. Larquier enters the 2006 ACC Championship second in league history in career doubles (55); tied for second in total bases (435), and tied for third in home runs (34).
At UVa’s All-Sports Banquet on May 2, Larquier was a co-recipient of the Craig Fielder Memorial Award with football player Ryan Best. The award is given annually to a UVa student-athlete who embodies the qualities of leadership in character and sportsmanship, unwavering competitive spirit and untiring determination in overcoming adversity. Craig Fielder was a football player at Virginia who died on October 16, 1987 after a courageous battle with cancer. His battle serves as an inspiration to all athletes who must face hardship, and as a reminder that true achievement is measured not by athletic success, but by the individual’s effort. Larquier has had great success on the field, but her effort far exceeds that success.
As her collegiate career winds down, Larquier is one of the few players who have the opportunity to continue playing the game they love at the professional level. She was drafted by the Akron Racers in the second round of the 2006 National Pro Fastpitch League Senior Draft in February. Once her collegiate career has concluded, Larquier will turn her attention to furthering her softball career on the professional level.
“When I was little, my dream was to be a college player and get to the furthest point possible,” noted Larquier. “When coach Johns asked me if I wanted to play professionally, I couldn’t say yes with enough exclamation points. When that draft happened, I ran around my apartment with Jackie (Greer). It was so exciting. It is another excellent opportunity to play with some great players.”
Larquier dreamed of playing college softball, but she was more interested in the quality of education she could receive. When she was looking at colleges, Larquier wasn’t interested in the traditional softball powers, which led her to look at Virginia, UC-Davis, Princeton and Columbia.
“I was really looking for an academic school and that was a priority for me,” said Larquier. “I also wanted to go away and experience something other than the west coast. I didn’t really provide that option for myself to go to a traditional softball power. Virginia had always been right there, so it was my number one choice. Coach Sprangel had been recruiting me all throughout my junior year and when I came out on my recruiting trip I fell in love with the university. It was the fall and all the colors were in full effect. I had never really been on the east coast for any length of time other than playing in softball nationals, which was usually in Georgia. I really fell in love with the atmosphere and fit in well with the team and thought it would be a good place for me to reside for the next four years and play softball.”
What a great four years it has been for Larquier on the softball field. As any great team player will say, but what Larquier really means is the bottom line is wins and losses. Very few know that Larquier has played only one season at the same position and that was last year when she had 60 of 63 starts at third. As a first-year, she played second base, catcher, designated player, and even three games in right field. In 2004 as a second-year, Larquier split time between second and third base. Larquier began the 2006 season at third base, but moved to second because of an injury to Elea Crockett. Larquier returned to third, only to be shifted to shortstop where she has played the last 28 games.
“I take pride in just being a team player. Whether I go 0-3 or 3-3 doesn’t matter, it’s that two-column category that the team relies on. I never want to be that player that people talk about who are so concerned with their stats. I’m out there to play with my teammates to work hard and to win. Stats are part of the game, but for me I chose not to focus on them. I want to give my teammates everything I have and so that’s what pushes me to take my game to the next level and I hope that rubs off. I also want to walk away from this program knowing they got everything out of me and that I left everything on that softball field. These last four years have been the culmination of my career. Up until a couple of months ago, this was going to be it for me. So I needed to leave it all out there.”
“Sara has been unbelievable,” said Johns. “Her mother’s love and strength will always live through Sara. She understands that not everything in life makes sense. She is resilient on the field and shows incredible courage off the field. She is blessed in so many ways. She has experienced a tough rain delay in a very long game and is making the most of her chances.”
Larquier has one more goal to accomplish before she hangs up her Virginia uniform. “Ultimately I would love to win an ACC championship and take this team to regionals. We’ve never made it, so I think those would be two really cool things. Get a ring and get into postseason. I think this team possesses that ability.
“I go out every day, whether it’s the worst day of my life or the best day of my life and keep it in perspective. Try to take every opportunity to its fullest, especially since this is my fourth year. It’s been awesome, unforgettable. I’ve been grateful for everything and I’ve met so many amazing people and made so many great friends. UVa is definitely a place I’m proud to have a tie with. It has far surpassed any of my expectations for college.”
Despite the adversity, the bright-eyed kid from California has thrived at the University of Virginia and etched her name in the record book while leaving everything she has on the field along the way.
More importantly, Sara will fulfill her mom’s last wish when she walks The Lawn on May 21 to receive her diploma from the University of Virginia.
By Bill Hurd
Assistant Athletics Media Relations Director