Track: Shea Martinez, Ben Saarel lead Utahn contingent at Simplot Games

Published: Saturday, Feb. 16 2013 10:22 p.m. MST

POCATELLO — Many Utahns turned in great performances on Saturday here at the Simplot Games.

Davis High senior Shea Martinez ran the fastest 800 meters in America this year with at time of 2:09.18 while Salt Lake City's Ben Saarel shattered the 35-year-old meet's record in the 3200 meters by 10 seconds.

"It was insane," said Saarel. "The last 200 I was tight, I heard the crowd and pushed through. It was the coolest atmosphere."

Saarel, who will run track and cross country for the University of Colorado next year, didn't have the lead the entire race, he came back in the last two laps and took charge.

"With a couple laps to go I knew I had to hit him hard to pass him," said Saarel of Elijah Armstrong who took second in the race.

"I thought I could pass him for 200 meters, but I looked up and he was gone," said Armstrong.

While Saarel rallied, Martinez led her race the whole way.

"It's really cool to win," said Martinez. "I put in so much work. Last year I place fourth but my time wasn't the best. So this year I stayed relaxed and tried to kick it. The 800 has more competition," said Martinez. "You also have more time to settle in and think."

FEENY TAKES GOLD IN 1600: Sarah Feeny, a junior from Ogden, placed first in girls' 1600 meters, with a time of 4:5.26. At last year's Simplot Games, Feeny placed second in the 3200 meters, but this year she chose to run the 1600 meters.

"It's my favorite event, and I thought I'd have a chance at winning," says Feeny. "At the halfway mark I started to kick more. I felt pretty good during the race."

Just under 2,000 athletes came from across the U.S. and Canada to participate in the 35th annual event at Holt Arena.

"It's a really good experience," says Feeny. "It's good to know where you're at before the outdoor season starts. Also, the competition comes from other states, and I really like that."

HARPER RETURNS TO WIN 3200: Summer Harper, a senior from Orem, claimed the championship spot in the 3200 meter run at this year's Simplot Games.

Harper, who placed third in this event, actually ran a slower time than last year. She said she got too comfortable with her pace and then had to pick it up. Surrounded by runners since birth, Harper's parents and siblings are all runners.

"I've been running pretty much since I've been able to run," she said.

Harper said she enjoys the relaxed pace of the 3200 meters and is better at longer distances, which is why she returned to compete in this event.

"Even though it's sixteen laps, it goes by fast," she said.

RIVERTON RULES 4X400: Riverton Track Club took the 4x400-meter-relay with a time of 3:23.18, they were able to best the second place team, Newburgh Elite Track Club from New York, who beat them at last years' Games.

The juniors-only team includes Brandon Walker, Nikita Mangeris, Clay Lambourne and Michael Bluth, in order of running appearance.

Riverton's relay team said their focus coming into this year's Games was to perform their best.

"Our coach really stresses not necessarily being the best, but performing our best," Mangeris said.

NEWCOMERS TAKE RELAY: The Top of Utah Track Club, a team comprised entirely of first-timers at Simplot Games, won the girls' 4x800-meter relay.

The team, in order of running appearance, included senior Sydney Blair of Weston, Idaho; Whitney Willcox, a sophomore from Tremonton; Tori Parkinson, a senior from Wellsville; and junior Brookayla Nelson of Nibley. They turned in a winning time of 9:37.54.

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