Doug Robinson: A dream mile and a dream season

Published: Tuesday, June 24 2014 4:05 p.m. MDT

Later in the day Feeny won the 800-meter run in 2:10.40, the sixth fastest ever run by a Utahn on Utah soil, and 45 minutes later, she rallied her medley relay team from a 50-meter deficit to win the medley relay, clocking a split of 2:10.8. That gave her a career total of nine state championships, including one in cross country.

Great Southwest Classic

Three weeks after the state meet, Feeny competed in the 800-meter run in Albuquerque against top athletes from around the country. She broke a 25-year-old meet record with a time of 2:09.83 despite windy conditions, earning herself athlete-of-the-meet honors. She also ran a leg on Utah’s winning 4 x 800 relay team.

Adidas Dream Mile

The Dream Mile has become a feature event in the Adidas Grand Prix track and field meet in New York. A dozen or so of the top male and female high school milers in the nation are invited to compete in a meet that otherwise consists mostly of professionals and Olympians. Three Utah athletes have been invited to compete in each of the last two Dream Mile races, which is remarkable when considered on a per-capita basis. Last year Park City’s Ben Saarel ran away with the boys’ race. This year it was Feeny’s turn to do the same.

She did it the hard way again. Expecting her rivals to run a fast early pace, Feeny was content to let them lead. They went through the first lap in 71 seconds — three seconds slower than her target time. She took the lead about midway through the second lap — “I thought if none of these girls are going to do it, then I’m going to have to do it,” she says — and then was immediately tripped and almost fell to the track. Once again, she won from the front, running negative splits. She covered the first half-mile in 2:23.88 and the second half-mile in 2:15.35 to finish in 4:39.23 — the fastest in the nation this year. She beat her nearest rival by 3½ seconds. Her time converts to 3:37.61 for 1,600 meters — about eight seconds faster than the Utah state record she set five weeks earlier.

Brooks PR Invitational

A week later, Feeny flew to the other coast for another mile race, this time in the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle. It was a replay of the New York race — she ran from the front, won by three seconds and clocked a nearly identical time of 4:39.42 — a meet record.

“I was hoping to get closer to 4:35,” she says, “but it was windy and I think I was tired from all the racing and traveling and staying up late.”

That race will mark the end of Feeny’s high school running career. She plans to take some time off and then start preparing for her freshman season at the University of Utah. A 4.0 student, she will study engineering and compete in track and cross country.

For Barton, a former Weber State runner, this marks the end of a long, productive partnership. Barton started a youth track club about a decade ago and 8-year-old Feeny signed up. She was a prodigy and had early success in youth track meets, but she was dividing her time with club soccer, which coaxes athletes to devote themselves year round to that sport. She quit soccer when she was a ninth-grader.

“I told her she could keep playing soccer but she’d have more opportunities with track,” says Barton. “She’s not a big girl — 5-7, 115 pounds. I told her she could be a superstar in track. I’m very grateful she didn’t play soccer.”

In Feeny, she found a dedicated, coachable athlete. Barton told her she needed more sleep; she sleeps 8-9 hours a day. She told her she needed to eat well. She eats fruits and vegetables and packs her own lunches of carrots and apples.

“She listens and trusts what coaches tell her,” says Barton.

Now she will pass her on to the Utes. “The coolest thing about Sarah is her personality,” says Barton. “Everyone loves her. Usually when you have someone who is that talented, others become jealous, but she cares so much about the team and other people that everybody likes her.”

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com