Ryan Hopkins, Kassidy Sani,  Becky Sani, Junior Sani

COLLEGE BOUND — El Molino senior Kassidy Sani was flanked by (from left) El Molino track coach Ryan Hopkins, mother and El Molino volleyball coach Becky Sani and father Junior Sani during a college scholarship signing ceremony at the school on March 3.

El Molino senior Kassidy Sani is headed to UC Irvine after inking an athletic scholarship offer in an emotional signing ceremony held in the school library on March 3.

“It feels amazing to be an Anteater,” Sani said. I toured a few colleges but I chose UC Irvine because I loved the school environment. I made my decision after meeting some of the track team members and coach, who I loved.”  

The 17-year-old Sani, a four-year all-league volleyball star who took up track and field during her sophomore year, transformed herself into one of the top shot put and discus throwers in the state through hours of work training with Lions track coach Ryan Hopkins, overcoming tremendous obstacles along the way.

“My family, particularly my mom and dad, grandma and aunt have been my biggest fans,” she said. “Coach Hopkins has put up with me on good days and bad — we’ve put in about 250 throws a day and hundreds of hours — working on footwork, finish and the mental part of the sport.”

Overcoming obstacles

Sani’s journey to UC Irvine was nearly derailed when she was afflicted by Lyme disease during her freshman year, apparently triggered by a severe concussion suffered during a volleyball match.

“I was bitten by a tick when I was about eight years old,” Sani recalled. “The disease can lay dormant for a long time and a traumatic injury can trigger it years later. I went to a lot of specialists and went through a lot of tests before they figured out what it was.”

For the better part of a year Sani was forced to give up sports and relegated to home school and the couch before her strength slowly returned.

“It was a tough thing to go through, but it made me a stronger person,” she said. “I’m happy to share my experience with others so they won’t have to go through it themselves.” 

Once recovered, Sani more than made up for lost time, resuming an all-league volleyball career, playing one season of varsity hoops while competing on the track team during the spring. She quickly moved up the ranks to become one of the best shot and discus throwers in school history, winning multiple league and North Coast Section titles. Last season she achieved elite status in qualifying for the CIF State Championships in the discus event.

“That was one of my proudest moments in high school, qualifying for state,” she said. “I always thought I’d play volleyball in college, and one day coach Hopkins told me that I might have to make a decision between volleyball and track.”

The outgoing senior and straight A student plans to major in mathematics in college with a possible minor in biology or education.

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