Navajo Prep senior Sarah Chacon won three medals in less than three hours at this year's state track and field championship meet

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FARMINGTON — After Navajo Prep's Sarah Chacon had disappointing showings in the 200- and 400-meter races at last year's state track and field championship meet, she and her coaching staff decided to rethink things.

One year and lots of hard work later, she's a state champion.

After head coach Stephanie McDonald and assistant coach Sampson Sage watched Chacon, a former sprinter, slow down in those events, they thought it would be best for the senior to shift to distance running.

"She came in as district runner-up in the 200 and 400 last year, so when it came to state, we said, 'Alright, let's get on the podium and prove you're one of the best sprinters in 3A,'" Sage said. "She made finals for both, but then coming around the top of the turn, everyone else had an extra gear, and she did not."

At the end, Chacon took seventh in the 400 and eighth in the 200, finishes she attributed to fatigue. She said the way she felt after the races made her realize how badly she wanted to win.

"Just knowing that I could get so close to winning, I realized that getting on the podium was the goal after that," Chacon said.

Shortly after state, Sage suggested Chacon transition to middle-distance running. Chacon was receptive to it, so the plan was to stick to the 400 while also training for the 800 and 1,600 meters.

So Chacon's training regimen was redesigned to incorporate more mile-based workouts. Her coaches didn't back away from any of her speed-based activities, but they made sure Chacon dedicated at least one day a week to aerobics and lactate-threshold training.

Chacon said the workouts were more trying than anything she had experienced in her seven years with the sport.

"The hard workouts got even harder and longer," she said.

All of that hard work paid off on Saturday in Albuquerque when Chacon won the Class 3A state championship in the 800 meters, finishing the race in 2 minutes and 28.18 seconds.

But she wasn't done there.

In the span of two and a half hours, she went on to collect a total of three medals. After winning the 800 meters, she had a 30-minute intermission to prepare for the 400, in which she took third.

She said she was on such a high from winning a state title that short rest time didn't affect her.

"I was in disbelief," she said. "I wanted to smile, and I wanted to cry all at the same time. And I really just felt like I could do anything. I thought, 'OK, let's do this 400, it's just one lap.'"

About an hour after the 400, Chacon participated in the 1,600 meters — her longest race of the afternoon — and took second.

Sage, who coaches cross-country at Piedra Vista, said Chacon's three medals in less than three hours was one of the most incredible feats he has seen one of his athletes accomplish in his 12-year coaching career.

"I would always tell people that in my career there were five people who stood out — four were at Fort Lewis and one was at PV," Sage said. "I've seen five kids who have had that 'it factor.' I knew (Chacon) was capable of a lot more than she even thought she was, and then on Saturday, she turned that list of five into six."

Chacon said Sage has been "realistic" with her and has pushed her to show the kind of drive she showed on Saturday. McDonald, Chacon said, has been like a mother figure to her. Following her huge day at state, McDonald said Chacon helped put Navajo Prep track on the map.

"People knew that Navajo Prep had solid cross-country teams, even before I got here," she said. "But for other schools to see Sarah's amazing day and see that our coaches can produce a state-champion runner like that, I think it means a lot to our program."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577. 

A closer look: Sarah Chacon

1. Favorite athlete?

"Brenda Martinez."

2. Favorite team?

"My family really likes them, so I'll say the Denver Broncos."

3. Favorite food?

"Chinese."

4. Favorite hobby?

"I like to sing."

5. Favorite subject in school?

"History."

6. Least favorite subject?

"Math."

7. Biggest fear?

"Losing family."

8. Do you play any other sports?

"I used to play basketball and volleyball once upon a time."

9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?

"Help the Navajo reservation."

10. Do you have any pregame rituals?

"Not really. Go use the restroom, I guess?"

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