Coach’s Corner: West Ranch track & field’s Sara Soltani

By Haley Sawyer

Last update: Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Success seems to follow Sara Soltani, at least when it comes to Santa Clarita Valley track and field and cross country.

She started at Golden Valley High. In her four years there, she coached the Grizzlies to three Foothill League track and field titles for the girls and one for the boys.

This year, she began coaching at West Ranch. And what a year it has been.

The West Ranch boys cross country team qualified for its first state meet in seven years and won the league title for the second consecutive year.

The Wildcats girls track and field team went an undefeated 5-0 for its first-ever Foothill League crown.

Soltani recently talked about her passion for coaching with The Signal and how it all started.

Q: How did you get involved with track?

A: It’s going to sound funny, but I was a basketball player from the age of 6 and then one year, my freshman year, my coach said, go do track and field in the offseason and I really enjoyed it and then I ended up doing well in track and field in high school and did it in college and I was introduced to cross country in college as well.

Q: How have you kept from burning out over the years?

A: I’ve always been competitive in every aspect of my life, not just athletics. When I’m driving a car, I’m going to try to beat the person next to me as soon as the green light goes. I’ve always had a competitive spirit. If someone is walking next to me, I want to walk faster than them. But I knew from an early age that I wanted to be involved in sports and teaching. I’ve always known that’s the direction I wanted to go.

In this Signal file photo, Mykasia Simpkins of Golden Valley celebrates the team’s second-place finish at the Foothill League cross country championships with coach Sara Soltani and first-place finisher Bianca Tinoco at Central Park on Thursday. Tinoco was the first female winner of the girls varsity race to not attend Saugus High School since 2004. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Q: At what point did you realize you wanted to coach?

A: I was always the captain of my team, so like high school I was a captain, college I was one of the leaders. I always knew I was going to coach and teach. The defining moment would be when I moved back home to Valencia and started assisting at College of the Canyons. Then the coaches there pushed me to go and coach at the local high schools.

Q: What was the transition from Golden Valley to West Ranch like?

A: When I came here, it was great in the sense that they were so accepting right off the bat. They’re used to change. The boys cross country team had three different coaches in four years, the same with the track team, and so because I feel like they were used to change all the time, it was just something that was maybe normal to them and so the transition was far easier than I thought.

Q: What kind of approach have you taken with your teams?

A: I’m adamant about teaching athletes, especially in track and field, about ownership and what it means to be able to identify your own mistakes. We talk about that. We talk about the development, what it means to mature. Every week there was some kind of meeting about the focus of the week and what do you need to work on, especially in the technical events, and I think it just translated this season.

Q: Are things starting to come full circle for you, or is West Ranch just another stop on your path?

A: I see myself as a lifelong high school coach. I really, really enjoy the development of the athletes from ninth to 12th grade and being able to see them grow up and the whole development and maturing and taking ownership and want to get better for themselves, for their team, I enjoy seeing that.

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Coach’s Corner: West Ranch track & field’s Sara Soltani

College of the Canyons alumnae Sara Soltani speaks about her experience at COC at the 2017 Hall of Fame ceremony at the Hyatt Valencia on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Success seems to follow Sara Soltani, at least when it comes to Santa Clarita Valley track and field and cross country.

She started at Golden Valley High. In her four years there, she coached the Grizzlies to three Foothill League track and field titles for the girls and one for the boys.

This year, she began coaching at West Ranch. And what a year it has been.

The West Ranch boys cross country team qualified for its first state meet in seven years and won the league title for the second consecutive year.

The Wildcats girls track and field team went an undefeated 5-0 for its first-ever Foothill League crown.

Soltani recently talked about her passion for coaching with The Signal and how it all started.

Q: How did you get involved with track?

A: It’s going to sound funny, but I was a basketball player from the age of 6 and then one year, my freshman year, my coach said, go do track and field in the offseason and I really enjoyed it and then I ended up doing well in track and field in high school and did it in college and I was introduced to cross country in college as well.

Q: How have you kept from burning out over the years?

A: I’ve always been competitive in every aspect of my life, not just athletics. When I’m driving a car, I’m going to try to beat the person next to me as soon as the green light goes. I’ve always had a competitive spirit. If someone is walking next to me, I want to walk faster than them. But I knew from an early age that I wanted to be involved in sports and teaching. I’ve always known that’s the direction I wanted to go.

In this Signal file photo, Mykasia Simpkins of Golden Valley celebrates the team’s second-place finish at the Foothill League cross country championships with coach Sara Soltani and first-place finisher Bianca Tinoco at Central Park on Thursday. Tinoco was the first female winner of the girls varsity race to not attend Saugus High School since 2004. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Q: At what point did you realize you wanted to coach?

A: I was always the captain of my team, so like high school I was a captain, college I was one of the leaders. I always knew I was going to coach and teach. The defining moment would be when I moved back home to Valencia and started assisting at College of the Canyons. Then the coaches there pushed me to go and coach at the local high schools.

Q: What was the transition from Golden Valley to West Ranch like?

A: When I came here, it was great in the sense that they were so accepting right off the bat. They’re used to change. The boys cross country team had three different coaches in four years, the same with the track team, and so because I feel like they were used to change all the time, it was just something that was maybe normal to them and so the transition was far easier than I thought.

Q: What kind of approach have you taken with your teams?

A: I’m adamant about teaching athletes, especially in track and field, about ownership and what it means to be able to identify your own mistakes. We talk about that. We talk about the development, what it means to mature. Every week there was some kind of meeting about the focus of the week and what do you need to work on, especially in the technical events, and I think it just translated this season.

Q: Are things starting to come full circle for you, or is West Ranch just another stop on your path?

A: I see myself as a lifelong high school coach. I really, really enjoy the development of the athletes from ninth to 12th grade and being able to see them grow up and the whole development and maturing and taking ownership and want to get better for themselves, for their team, I enjoy seeing that.

About the author

Haley Sawyer

Haley Sawyer

A Pennsylvania native, Haley Sawyer has covered sports across the country. She is a graduate of Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh and primarily covers Football, boys basketball, girls soccer and girls golf for The Signal.

  • Steve Welker

    The West Ranch boys Cross Country team qualified for State for the second year in a row in 2016. Seven years previous in 2009 was the last time the girls team qualified for State. What was significant about Sara’s first year coaching boys XC at West Ranch was the podium finish at State that they achieved in addition to the repeat as Foothill League champs. The 2016 team placed 3rd in D2 at the State Meet.

    • Ronald Williams

      Some coaches do need to know when to retire. Like Paul Broneer and Larry David. Grumpy old men can sometimes bring down a team