Former HHS great honored for athletic achievement, perseverance

It’s been said that the true measure of a person is not in what they bring with them when they arrive, but rather what they leave behind.  

Sarah Sumpter

Pride of H-Town – HHS graduate and former running star Sarah Sumpter, pictured here competing for the Greyhounds in 2008, has been inducted into the UC Davis Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Former Healdsburg High School and University of California Davis cross country and track star Sarah Sumpter will be remembered for far more than her accomplishments as a cross country and track champion; it was her tremendous drive and dedication that fuels her lasting legacy.

The 2008 HHS graduate and Cloverdale native, who died in 2015 after a Herculean battle with cancer, will be inducted into the UC Davis Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame, taking her place among the greatest athletes in the school’s history.

“The outstanding distance runner known as ‘Stump’ will forever be remembered as a pillar of perseverance and inspiration for generations to emulate,” the UC Davis Athletic Department said in an emotionally charged press release this month. 

A will to win 

A middle of the pack runner when she began her high school running career, Sumpter transformed herself into an elite high school athlete through sheer hard work and determination. She etched her name in Greyhound lore in a record-shattering march to the 2007 CIF state cross-country title, becoming one of the most decorated cross-country runners to wear a Hound’s uniform.

At Healdsburg, the soft spoken dynamo captured individual Sonoma County League and North Coast Section cross-country championships and shattered nearly every course record along the way. On the track she was a fierce competitor and long-distance standout, winning multiple individual titles, including the 2008 NCS championship in the 3,200 meters.

It turned out she was just getting started.

From 2009-13, Sumpter quickly established herself among her UC Davis teammates, landing Big West Conference Athlete of the Year honors in cross country and track, while becoming just the second freshman to ever receive the honor.

Tragedy struck in 2010 when a routine examination revealed a brain tumor, requiring emergency surgery.

After sitting out the entire 2010-11 school year, Sumpter returned more determined than ever, placing second at the Big West Cross Country Championships and helping the Aggies to their first ever team title. That spring she went on to win three individual track and field titles, setting UC Davis records in both the outdoor 5K and 10K distances. As a junior, Sumpter advanced to the national finals to achieve Second Team All American distinction.  She became the first distance runner in more than a decade to win the Hubert Heitman award as the school’s outstanding female athlete.

All of this while still undergoing cancer treatment.

Following college graduation, Sumpter was in training for the 2015 New York City Marathon in hopes of posting a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials when her cancer relapsed. She died in September of 2015, five years after her original diagnosis. 

Today, the Aggies celebrate Sept. 10 as “Stump” Day, a fitting tribute for a young woman that taught us so much, but had so much more to give.         

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