MaryBeth Sant is a petite, 5-foot-1 blond-haired speed demon.
At first glance she doesn't look like much of a threat, until she backs into the starting blocks, accelerates with an explosive start and shows competitors and fans alike why she is one of Colorado's and the nation's top sprinters.
Sant, a senior at Valor Christian who has signed to run for Oregon, ran a 7.3 in the 60-meter dash during the indoor season, which ranked as the best in the nation.
At the April 27 Liberty Bell Invitational, Sant set a meet record of 11.49 in the 100-yard dash, which was the second-fastest in the nation. But, on May 3, Sant became the fastest 100-meter high school girls runner in the country when she ran an 11.38 to set a St. Vrain Invitational meet and Everly-Montgomery Stadium record. She broke her own meet mark of 11.65, set last May.
“I'm really happy,” Sant said. “It was the fourth 100 that I've run this season. I set a PR. I want to stay number one in the nation and hopefully defend my state titles and contribute to the relays as well. That would be awesome.”
Sant won the state Class 4A 100-meter dash (11.69) and the 200 (24.11) last spring, and although she didn't mention it, she probably has her sights set on shattering more records.
The state meet Class 4A record in the 100-meter dash is 11.34, set by Liberty's Ashley Owens in 2004. Caryl Smith of George Washington is the all-time Colorado recordholder with an 11.31 time set in a 1987 district meet.
Owens also holds the Class 4A state meet standard of 23.42 in the 200 meters, while the 23.29 run by Regis Jesuit's Ana Holland in this season's Liberty Bell is the fastest time recorded in Colorado and the nation by a high school girl.
“She's a little mighty mite,” Valor Christian coach Brian Kula said. “Even though she is short at 5-1, I would say the average female sprinter is 5-5 to 5-7. It's not like they are towering over her.
“She's been on a trajectory since she was a freshman that showed she was going to be here by the time she was a senior. She's a year-round track athlete. She trains in the fall and winter and competes in the spring and summer.”
Sant was a speedy youth soccer player when she took some advice from her dad.
“I played soccer when I was a little kid,” Sent said. “I was pretty fast and my dad said, `Hey, why don't we try track?' I did soccer and track both for a while, then I just stuck with track because I loved it.”
Sant has dreams of competing for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, and Valor Christian's scientific approach to track training has given her a head start.
“I've always had a saying that sprinting is a skill and it can be learned and can be enhanced,” Kula said. “Granted she was probably a pretty fast little girl when she was on the soccer field when she was 6 years old, but you take someone who already has a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers and you put them in the weight room and use plyometrics and teach them how to run properly and that's when you get these kind of performances.
“Her starts, her block clearance and drive phase is very good, which is why she is number one in the country. She has developed into a good 200-meter sprinter and her 100 has come along and she has put it all together. She is a pleasure to have on our team. She does what we ask her to so. She makes a lot of sacrifices in her training to help us.”