Sarah Lacina is one of the winning cast members of Survivor, who has returned alongside 19 other previous winners to the show to vie for her second (or in one case, third) time to be crowned Sole Survivor.
Lacina has come back to the game for the third time. She previously finished in 11th place on the 28th season, Survivor: Cagayan, which was the first Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty season, and won Survivor: Game Changers, which was season 34 and aired in the spring of 2017. Sarah is actually the reigning female winner — the winners have all been men since “Game Changers.”
Read on for more info on Lacina on and off the show.
1. Sarah Is a Hard-Core Runner
Lacina grew up in Muscatine, Iowa, where she was a four-sport athlete at the local high school. Running was her biggest sport, as she went on to run track and cross country for Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social work.
After her time on Survivor, her castmate David Samson called her up to see if she would consider running in a marathon to raise money for charity. But it wasn’t just one marathon, it was seven marathons in seven days on seven continents — and at first, Lacina said no way.
“I had a long, hard sit down with myself, and I said, ‘You know, you are always the one who tells people they can do anything they put their mind to. You don’t believe you can do this, prove to yourself that you can,'” she told the Wartburg College student paper.
So Lacina joined a team of 16 adventurers and set off to complete the World Marathon Challenge, which began in Antarctica and then went to South Africa, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Colombia, and Miami, Florida.
“It was a lot of training, tears, bad days, aches, and pains, but I dedicated myself to this for about a year,” she said. “The training was honestly harder than the World Marathon. I’m not sure how I was able to do it.”
2. She Is a Police Officer
After high school, Lacina moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and became a police officer in 2006, eventually moving up the ranks to become an investigator. After her Survivor win, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that he was not at all surprised to see her win because she is such an outstanding officer.
“Sarah is an outstanding officer who showed a tremendous will to succeed and understanding of the game,” he said. “This commitment is something that we see consistently displayed through her work at the Cedar Rapids Police Department. It’s great to see her hard work pay off in a million ways on the Survivor: Game Changers series.”
She definitely credits her job with helping her on Survivor in many ways, not the least of which is how physically demanding they both are.
“Our job can be very physical, sometimes you’re fighting for your life. I can think of a number of occasions when I’ve been in a physical fight and never has it been with someone smaller than me,” she told the Gazette in 2009.
3. Sarah Also Competes in Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts
After joining the Cedar Rapids Police Department in 2006, Lacina met a co-worker named Tom Grubb, who got her into boxing and mixed martial arts in early 2009.
“He just kind of started talking to me about it, so I came down to the gym and trained with Team Hard Drive,” she told the Gazette, adding, “I really enjoy boxing. When I first came into it, I wanted to fight MMA. There are so many aspects to MMA, so I picked something to start with — my striking — and I really enjoyed the boxing so I’m taking boxing matches, but I think after this, I’m probably going to start training on the ground a little more, start getting into MMA.”
“What I enjoy about [training] is the challenge of just learning. Anyone can just throw a punch but to throw a punch correctly, effectively and quickly is another [thing],” she said, adding, “I’m not a very patient person. My teammates were like, ‘You have to put your time in before you can fight.’”
4. She and Her Partner Have One Child
When Lacina competed on Survivor the second time, she was engaged to fellow police officer Wyatt Wardenburg, who appeared on the show during the loved ones’ visit and was at the finale when she was crowned Sole Survivor. In an interview taped during his time in Fiji, Wardenburg said he had a feeling Lacina would win.
“I have a good feeling that she’s gonna do it. People come out here, they want to play this game, and it’s hard, it’s grueling, it’s taxing, it’s physical, it’s mental — it’s anything you can ever imagine all wrapped into one little thing. … It’s the hardest 39 days of your life. She wouldn’t have it any other way. This is right up her alley. I know she’s gonna finish what she started. I just know it,” said Wardenburg.
The two welcomed a baby boy named Knox Wade on August 22, 2014. She actually revealed at the “Cagayan” reunion special that she was six months pregnant. In an interview in 2017, Lacina’s mom Lorrie told the Muscatine Journal that her advice to her daughter when she went out for a second stint on Survivor was, “You’re playing for your family now. You’re not playing for you. You’re playing for Knox.”
5. Sarah Realizes That People Might Not Trust Her After Game Changers
In a pre-“Winners at War” interview with Xfinity, she says that she realizes her game changed drastically between her two seasons and that people might not trust her now.
“I feel like I have a target. People are looking at me like I’m a criminal, so I feel like I’m on probation now. I have to behave for a little bit until I can get off of probation. How you played last can be very damning. Going into ‘Game Changers,’ I was known as loyal. I came out and did the opposite. So now, people aren’t going to remember ‘Cagayan.’ I have to overcome that hurdle of people not wanting to trust me,” says Lacina.
She also says she hopes her Survivor buddy Tony Vlachos is on “Winners at War” because they can re-form their “Cops R Us” alliance.
“If he’s out here and we play, we’re the only two people here to play three seasons together. But, we didn’t get a chance to play together last time,” she says, adding that that is “entirely his fault.”
“He was a lunatic! But, he is a lunatic. I love Tony. He’s like the little brother that you want to strangle, but you just love him. I think Cops R Us can bury the hatchet. And if he goes rogue? Well, when you bury something you can always dig it right up.”
Survivor: Winners at War airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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