As the Washington State football team entered the tunnel leading to the field the day after Christmas, offensive lineman Riley Sorenson was pulled aside by an assistant coach and informed that his father, Bart, had suffered a heart attack just prior to entering Sun Bowl Stadium.
The younger Sorenson was scheduled to start at center in the season-ending bowl game against Miami, but the Santa Margarita High School graduate quickly tossed his helmet and shoulder pads aside and raced to Providence Hospital in El Paso, Tex., where his father, Bart, was in grave condition.
Despite numerous efforts to save his life, Bart Sorenson died 10 days later at age 49.
His father’s death was the gut-wrenching culmination of an agonizing fall and winter for Sorenson, who was also blindsided by his mother’s cancer diagnosis in mid-November. Sadly, Karen Sorenson recently passed away and life has forever changed for Sorenson.
He didn’t let the harsh experience deflate his spirit, however, and in early May the Pac-12 Conference honored Sorenson by awarding him the conference’s Sportsmanship Award for the 2015-16 academic year.
“Obviously, this past fall was a very emotionally tough time for me in my personal life,” Sorenson said after receiving the award. “But all of the support that I received from everyone involved made it possible for me to go about my life as my family would want me to.”
Sorenson, who graduated from Santa Margarita in 2013, has gained attention for his exceptional play on the field as well.
A week after accepting his Sportsmanship Award, the 6-foot-4, 327-pound Sorenson was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for his upcoming senior season. The Rimington Trophy is presented annually to the best center in college football.
As a senior in high school, Sorenson was ranked by one well-known scouting service as the 67th-best offensive tackle in the nation, hardly a blue-chip prospect. He never took an official recruiting trip, but had scholarship offers from such schools as UCLA, Cal Berkeley and Washington before settling on Washington State.
Sorenson was also a second-team all-Orange County selection by the Orange County Register following his senior season at Santa Margarita in 2012. He has accomplished considerably more during his college career than the three Trinity League offensive linemen who were named to the all-county first-team the same season, starting 21 games over the last two seasons and earning Pac-12 honorable mention honors last fall.
David Bright of Mater Dei will be a senior this fall at Stanford, where he’s set to become a first-year starter at left tackle, Dane Crane of Santa Margarita retired from football after spending the last three seasons at Washington, and John Lopez of Orange Lutheran has yet to play in his first three seasons at UCLA.
Sorenson isn’t the only Santa Margarita graduate at Washington State who could be in line for a prominent award this fall. River Cracraft, a wide receiver who graduated from high school the same year as Sorenson, is expected to be one of the top ball catchers for the Cougars again this fall.
Last season, Cracraft was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, which recognizes the top wide receiver in the nation. He missed three games with an injury, but still finished with 53 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns.
With players like Sorenson and Cracraft expected to lead the way again this season, the Cougars should be in great hands.