SOUTH PLAINFIELD - South Plainfield High School (SPHS) senior, Sofia Watson, signed with Felician University on April 6. Watson will join Felician’s track team, a competitive Division II school. Watson spent four years on the SPHS track team, excelling to championship levels in long jump, high jump, triple jump, and relays.

“I’m a little nervous, but really excited,” Watson said. “I plan to study criminal justice and am really happy about going to Felician next year.”

“Sofia has so much talent,” said SPHS Track & Field Coach Christopher Fish. “She made the championships in the long jump as a sophomore. She is so determined.” 

Watson’s two younger sisters, 10-year-old Zaida Sanchez and 12-year-old Zahara Sánchez, sat with their big sister as she signed for Felician. Raised by a single mother, Zunilda Sánchez, Watson is the third of five girls and has one brother. 

“I’m excited for Sophia,” said Zunilda Sánchez, Watson’s mother. “It’s been challenging, but it’s been rewarding too. I’m very excited for her future, and I’m grateful for all the support she’s received here in the school district.”

Fish says it’s impressive that Watson accomplished so much as a freshman and sophomore. Then COVID-19 hit, canceling last season.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t have track last season, which is when Sofia would have exploded because of talent,” Fish said. “She has this year, but it will be shortened. I would have loved to see her have the whole high school experience.”

Sofía got her start as an athlete in Piscataway Recreational Track program and at South Plainfield Middle School. She later joined Maximum Speed Track Club, where she was coached by Johnny Pittman. Supported and guided by Fish and the SPHS coaching staff, Watson was able to excel in her first years of high school. When the pandemic prevented athletes from participating in sports last year, Sánchez says her daughter contemplated quitting track. But she was encouraged to continue to pursue her athletic endeavors by Keith Brunson, a former coach at Piscataway High School.

“What got her here was that she’s really determined, stubborn, and outgoing,” said Sánchez, “Her coaches made sure to keep her on track and offer direction. I’m really grateful for their support.” 

Those who know her say that Sofia is driven and wants to accomplish what she sets her mind on. She listened to her coaches and made sure to do her best.

“Sofia is determined to do well in the events that you put her into,” Fish said. “High jump is one of her other big events. She was awarded MVP on the winter track team a couple of years ago. She was Co-Rookie of the Year when she was a freshman. There's just so much there that she could have put forward if she had that opportunity last year. Her talent is just overwhelming.”

Fish says Watson has been an inspiration to her teammates as they see her spirit, adding that watching her encourages them to put forward their best effort.

“This is our biggest senior class that we’ve had in years,” Fish said. “The talent that these wonderful students have is amazing, and I’m glad to see them continuing in college.”

With several seniors receiving track scholarships over the past months, Fish says he hopes more students will be inspired to go out for track.  

“We’ve had Sofia and several other wonderful athletes who are in the class of 2021, Hailey Palmer who's going to Ryder and Melissa Calderon who's going to Felician,” said Fish. “They all really want to work together, compete together, and to be successful. So, they've drawn off each other, and they've been a blessing for the track program. I hope that the younger athletes can see that track can be something they can go into the future with, that will help them get scholarships for, and compete in a college sport.”

Apart from a big family with five siblings, Watson’s uncle, CPB Agent Daney Adams, and her grandmother, Guillermina Adams have been her biggest fans her entire life. Watson's godfather, Fanwood Councilman Anthony Carter, always made time to come and support Watson at her track meets and made sure she had the right gear to compete them. Watson and Sánchez expressed their gratitude for all the wonderful people in their lives and their loving contribution of support and encouragement.

"I can certainly say it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s a task I have not had to embark on alone," said Sánchez.

Sánchez says her daughter wants to make a difference in the world. Watson will follow in her older sister, Nadia Watson’s, footsteps and study criminal justice. As a senior track athlete double majoring in Sociology at Bloomfield College, Nadia Watson is the first in the family to attend college. Sofia's brother, Lyle G. Watson Jr., is a courier, and her oldest sister, Zunyda M. Watson is a Celebrity Tailor & Curator of Vibes After Dark. Busy schedules aside, the family always makes time for track meets.

“Sofia’s mom and her family show her fantastic support, and I'm glad that she's getting this opportunity in college,” said Fish. “She’ll be able to continue on and really show the rest of the college world what she can accomplish, not just the high school world.”

"I’m grateful to her coaches at South Plainfield for all of their encouragement and support!" Sánchez said. "I’m very proud and humbled by Sofia’s pursuit of her education."