Fabia Overcomes Injury to Become Star

Jae Yoo

It was her best friend’s advice that led Stephanie Fabia to abandon softball and take up track, the sport she has excelled at since her freshman year at Eagle Rock High.

“My friend Liberty [Sagucio] is the one who talked me out of playing softball,” Fabia recalled. “So I ran track that semester.”

She went on to win five events in her freshman year: the 100-meter, 200, 400 and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. She capped that with the same wins over the next three years, winding up with a perfect record in league competition.

Since then, freshman Fabia has made the transition to community college look easy. So far, with five meets into her freshman season she has remained undefeated in Western State Conference play.

Her only second place finish came Saturday at the United States Community College Track and Field Elite Meet in Chula Vista at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where she competed among the top nine 400-meter runners in the western region. Fabia earned All-American honors and set a school record in the 400 in 57:82, shattering Laura Brent’s 58.80 mark set in 1979.

“She’s working some terrific times,” said Coach Tom McMurray, who is now working on Fabia’s strength aspect of running. “Most girls go out there to run. Stephanie goes out there to compete and win.”

But despite her consistent top finishes, success has not come easily for Fabia.

“My back injury near the end of my sophomore year in high school led me to a big downfall,” said Fabia, whose back shifted to a point where she could not bend down to touch her toes. She then endured five months of physical therapy.

“For awhile, I wanted to quit, but my parents were the reason I came back. They somehow convinced me.”

It was that same determination that led her to run through the pain in the Pasadena Games her sophomore year at Eagle Rock High. Running in lane nine, the least favorable position for any sprinter, Fabia found a way to win again in the 400-meter event.

“Stepping up against the odds was tough,” said Fabia. “Because of my back [injury], the odds were against me when I came back.” Yet she pulled through.

It’s that drive to beat the odds that spurred her to rescue a drowning 6-year-old girl from the pool at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center where she works as a lifeguard. Even though off-duty she rescued not only the drowning child, but also covered for her inattentive coworker who was on shift at the time.

“She’s a team person,” said McMurray. “She’s always encouraging her teammates during practice and in the meets.”

Aspirations do not stop on the field for Fabia. With 15.5 units of classes, she hopes to study business or work towards a teacher’s degree at UCLA.

In the meantime, she’ll compete in the Western State Conference Championships on April 28, the Southern California Championships May 12, and the State Championships May 19 in Sacramento.