CI Sports Report with Elise Menaker: U of I soccer player sets sights on Olympic speed skating

For Sarah Warren it's all about the three “S'”s: school, soccer and speed skating.  The University of Illinois freshman likes to be the best ate everything she does and soon could be a speed skating Olympian.

Sarah Warren, she lives life on the fast track, on the field and the ice.  At a young age it was about the need for speed.

“I was always kind of an adrenaline junkie and I love the idea you don't know what's going to happen,” she said.

She grew up playing hockey with the boys.

“I was a big tomboy, big tomboy,” Warren said with a laugh.  “I wore all my brothers' hand-me-downs.  I promised my friend I would never wear a skirt, never carry a purse.”

At 10 years old she saw speed skating and fell in love.

It's been soccer, though, that Warren says she's been playing since she was born.

“It's one of those things that parents put you in to see what you can like and I fell in love with that,” she said.

So Warren finds herself in this love triangle, but when it comes to speed skating, it's the five rings she has her eye on.

“My goal ultimately is the 2018, 2022 Olympics,” she said.

She made the Junior World Championship team two years ago and hopes to do the same this year competing in sprints.  But the lifestyle, playing a division I sport while training for the Olympics in another sport while studying biomedical engineering to become an orthopedic surgeon, isn't easy.  The freshman practices soccer with the team, trains for speed skating at the university's rink and in the off season, she heads to Milwaukee to work with her coach.

“It's just about balance,” Warren said.  “Your biggest enemy is time and so you just have to kind of figure out what in the day can you do at that time.  There's not really time for you to just watch TV at all, but I like that.”

She also likes that the University of Illinois allows her to pursue both sports.  Head women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield pointed out Warren's athleticism and drive.

“I just think that's the way she's wired,” she said.  “If she's going to do something, she wants to be the best at it…. Certainly the things she does speed skating from an athletic standpoint, the power and the explosiveness and all those things, aren't counterproductive to the things that we would want her to do on the soccer field.”

The defender got a chance to start this season due to injuries, but splitting her time between two sports has its drawbacks, like her foot skills need some work.

“Balancing all of those and trying to be one of the best in all of those will be a challenge I think throughout her career,” Coach Rayfield explained.

But Warren's not one to shy away from a challenge.  As long as she can keep doing both, she intends to.

“I can't ever say I like one more than the other because if I didn't have one in my life, I wouldn't feel complete,” she said. 

Though tough, she's not invincible.  Warren's had minor double knee surgery.  She has ankle problems and cold-induced asthma.

“That's why school is so important to me because skating and soccer are so temporary and you're always going to need a backup and that's school,” Warren explained.  “No one can take knowledge away from you or education.”

And for now, no one can take the skates or the soccer ball from warren.

This season the team got knocked out in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament by Wisconsin who ended up winning it all.  Warren, one of eight freshman, believes experience and learning from mistakes will create a successful season next year.  This month, she has the junior world trials and we wish her luck.

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