SALT LAKE CITY — Expectations for the first meet of the season are usually modest — especially when one spent most of the summer nursing an injury.
But Sarah Feeny shocked herself with a personal best as the Ogden High junior won the Highland Invitational Cross Country meet at Sugarhouse Park Friday afternoon.
"That is very surprising," she said of her 17:36.7 winning time. Bingham's Emily Rich was second with a time of 17:53,3; and Jackie Heaps, Lehi, was third with a time of 18:06. "I know I'm capable of it; I just didn't think I'd do it in the very first meet."
She expected to win — just not with her fastest 3-mile time.
She wasn't alone to run a career best in the hot afternoon temperatures. The winner of the boys' race, Ben Saarel, a senior from Park City, said he was "extremely surprised" by his winning time of 14:49.1. Jordon Cross, Ogden, was second with a time of 14:56.3; and Michael Finch, Pine View, was third with a time of 14:59.8.
"That's ridiculous," he said looking at his time card that proved the clock wasn't lying. "I felt great that last couple of miles. I had to work a little bit at the end to put distance between me and the other runner. But I just focused."
Saarel is the defending 3A state champion, but Feeny was disappointed with her finish in last year's state championship meet.
"Most of my team ended up, well, we just all had bad days," she said. Feeny said maybe they didn't realize how tough it would be to earn a state title with what was one of the state's fastest female teams.
"We kind of thought we'd be able to win, but we took third," she said. "So this year we're not going to get cocky. We'll be confident, but we know it will be tough to try and win."
Still, that is the Tigers' goal and they have the runners to contend. Feeny said she has her own goals as well.
"We have a really good team, and our goal is to win state," she said. "But I want to qualify for nationals, too. "
Saarel has the same personal goal.
"I ended up winning (state)," he said. "But one of the goals I wanted to hit last year, I wasn't able to achieve. I missed out on a spot to nationals by one place."
At regionals he placed 11th and organizers only take the top 10 from each region to the Nike National Championships.
A former soccer player, he took up running at the behest of his sister, who was a runner.
"It's an acquired taste, but now I love it," he said smiling.
In addition to loving the sport, he said he loves the competition among this year's male runners.
"I love the guys I'm competing against," he said. "Utah running is great."