Part of a military family, Savannah Roark has grown up in a number of places across the U.S. When the time came to choose her athletic and academic home for the next four years, the Beavercreek senior decided to go back close to her roots, verbally committing this week to Syracuse University.
"I think I'll be getting there at a special time," she said of joining the Orange in the fall of 2020. "I'm originally from upstate New York so I'm excited to be back."
Three weekends ago, Roark and the Beavers, who are No. 2 in the MileSplit50 XC Girls Team Rankings, dropped in on the 55th annual McQuaid Invitational in Rochester, N.Y. With teammate Taylor Ewert on her final recruiting visit, Roark was at the front of a 1-3-4 overall finish for Beavercreek, crossing the line in the No. 10 time in meet history, 16:56.3.
"As I got into the process, I realized some people only see you as a number, and as much as I want to become a good runner, I wanted a group of girls I bonded with and coaches I felt believed in me and could help me reach my goals," Roark said of her recruiting experience. "I think the school can have a million and one accolades, but you gotta have support, which Syracuse definitely always showed toward me. Like most schools, I loved 'Cuses's campus, I loved the team, and the school just happens to have an incredible nutrition program."
Roark hit the ground running in the fall of 2016 for Courtland High School between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va. As a freshman, she finished 14th in Virginia's 4A state XC final.
A year later, Roark was fourth in the 4A fall finale before finishing third and fourth in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 3/4A track championships. In her first year at Beavercreek, she was 16th overall in Division I as the Beavers won the XC team title and grabbed fourth in the indoor state 3,200 and runner-up in the Emerging Elite two-mile run at the New Balance Nationals Indoor.
A pair of sub 10:30s outdoors highlighted a 2019 track season that saw her finish as the third-fastest Ohioan over eight laps and fourth in the 3,000 at the Penn Relays. She also was 16th in the 5,000 at NB Nationals Outdoor, ranking in Ohio's top 4 in a trio of track events both indoor and out.
Roark, who plans to major in Nutrition Science and Dietetics, took official visits to Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado before taking her final trip to Syracuse. It turns out she saved what she viewed as the perfect match for last.
"'Cuse has a very impressive track record of producing professional runners, which I like, but really the conversations I had with Coach (Brien) Bell sent me over the edge," she said. "He tells it how it is, he understands where I want to go, it just feels like he's meant to be my coach. ... My mom lives 40 minutes away in my childhood home, where we have a barn and land. In the end, it just felt like the place I needed to be."