Davis' Shea Martinez let it all soak in.
The smoke of the starting gun, the clatter of cleats, the burning of legs and lungs under the glow of stadium lights. As a wide-eyed freshman at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational, the West Coast promised land of high school track and field, the scene made an impression on the long-legged newcomer.
The nation's best made the blistering paces look easy. Martinez knew better.
"I never would have imagined I'd be at that level," she said.
Fast forward three years.
In early April, Martinez found herself at the dusky starting line of the Arcadia Invitational, every bit the elite athlete she had looked up to years before. As she circled the track, legs firing on all cylinders, and crossed the finish line victorious in both the 800 and 1,600 races, she finally came to the realization.
She had made it.
"It's amazing to me that I was able to grow into one of those runners that people look up to," said Martinez, who will take her talents to BYU this fall. "I didn't hit every mark I hoped to hit, but I'm very happy with all I've accomplished."
Martinez has impressed and intimidated each year as a Dart. Still, her senior campaign was by far her most dominant and not just on the local stage.
In February, she won the 800 at The Simplot Games with a time of 2 minutes, 9.14 seconds a sizable 6 seconds ahead of the next finisher. A few weeks later, she placed fourth in the 800 at the New Balance Indoor Nationals with a time of 2:08 and anchored Davis' national champion 1,600 relay team.
"That's kind of when I realized this was going to be a big year for me," Martinez said.
It was only the beginning.
After her headlining performance at Arcadia, she continued to progress throughout the outdoor season, culminating in her third consecutive state titles in both the 800 and 1,600. She also anchored Davis' title-winning 1,600 relay to become one of the most decorated Utah distance runners ever.
"She's just amazing," said teammate Taylor Cox, a member of Davis' 3,200 indoor national championship relay, 1,600 relay and state runner-up in the 800. "She's a fighter, a hard worker and committed."
Martinez received an invitation to compete in The Dream Mile, the premier event for high school distance runners, less than a week after her impressive performance at the state meet.
Only 14 are invited to race, with the goal of breaking the girls' high school national record in the mile.
"At that point, I was a bit burned out, but it's such a huge honor," Martinez said. "That kept me motivated."
With the Manhattan skyline on the horizon, Martinez hoped to run under 4:45. She instead finished in 4:55 seconds still one of the best times in the nation this year.
"It wasn't a good day for me, but I learned from it," she said. "And meeting so many of the best high school and pro athletes it was all amazing."
She hopes the experience will serve her well as she races toward her next goals, including an NCAA individual title and a spot in the Olympic games.
"I just love this sport so much," Martinez said. "We'll see how it works out. I've still got a lot of work to do."
Her legacy at Davis, however, is set in stone.
"It'll be weird not seeing her right by me in each race next season," said Cox, who will take Martinez's spot as the top returning distance runner for the Darts next season. "She pushed everyone to be better."