F.C. First Grader Makes Finals of Google Competition

PINE SPRINGS Elementary School first grader Sarah Gomez-Lane (right, white shirt) stands with her family next to the “Dino Doodle” that landed her a spot in the finals of the national Doodle 4 Google student competition. (Photo: Maria Lane)

An impromptu drawing a few months ago crescendoed into Sarah Gomez-Lane’s moment in the national spotlight as she’s been named a finalist for the Doodle 4 Google student competition.

Gomez-Lane, a first grader at Pine Spring Elementary School in Falls Church, was selected for the top design in the K – 3rd grade age group for her “Dino Doodle,” which illustrates the competition’s theme this year of “What Inspires Me” by highlighting her interest in dinosaurs and paleontology. She will join the winners of four other age groups — who beat out over 180,000 submissions nationwide to crack the top five and receive a $5,000 college scholarship — at Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters on June 18 for the announcement of the competition’s winner.

“We’re all just so happy for Sarah,” Sarah’s mother, Maria Lane, told the News-Press. “It’s very gratifying to see how one child’s inspiration and creativity can have a really exciting result in this national contest.”

What may be even more thrilling about Gomez-Lane’s progression through the competition is the serendipitous way she stumbled upon it.

The heavy wind storms that swept through the Northern Virginia area in early March caused schools and the federal government to close, keeping both Lane and Gomez-Lane homebound for the day. While the family didn’t have power, they did have their phones, so they perused some of the Doodle 4 Google activities for students and came across the competition that encouraged children to express their inspiration through art.

Along with the power outage, only one other obstacle laid in mother-daughter duo’s path: they had to finish the artwork by that night to meet the submission deadline. An eventful day ensued.

“We worked on the activity through the course of the day, and as night fell Sarah was still coloring in the drawing she had done during the day,” Lane continued. “So we had to go to the Applebee’s on East Broad Street, and then when the power went out there, we went to the Elevation Burger on Washington Street in order for her to finish up her drawing in time for us to send it late that night. It really was a lucky break, I don’t know if we would’ve had time for any of that had the power stayed on.”

Gomez-Lane’s natural artistic gifts helped fulfill the opportunistic theme of the day. According to her mom, she’s always been creative and had an affinity for drawing and painting ever since she was a preschooler in Guatemala. Lane credits her fossil-loving father for bestowing the paleontological passion in Gomez-Lane when the family spent last summer in Colorado, and Lane was pleasantly surprised at how well Gomez-Lane translated that inspiration into her “Dino Doodle.”

The journey isn’t over yet. Friends and family are white-knuckling their way through life up until June 18 arrives, but Gomez-Lane is casually passing the time before the trip out west.

“I can’t stop thinking and talking about it,” Lane said with a chuckle. “But Sarah’s happy to move onto the next thing, she wants to keep doing her drawings and talk about the exciting things she’s doing at school, so she’s got her head in the right place.”

According to Lane, her daughter is more pumped about reuniting with siblings and cousins on the west coast than the competition itself.