April 4, 2008
Sarah Burns is a performer.
As a senior triple jumper and long jumper on the WSU women's track and field team, the Tacoma, Wash., native spends her days flying through the air and leaping into sand when she performs as an athlete.
While at Curtis High, Burns won the state long jump title as a junior and captured the triple jump crown as a senior. In her first year at WSU, she took seventh place in the triple jump at the Pac-10 Championships, 13th place as a sophomore and eighth place last year. She advanced to the NCAA West Regionals in 2005 and 2007 placing 11th and 10th, respectively.
Burns' lifetime-best triple jump, which is described as a hop, step and jump event, came last winter when she soared to a distance of 41-feet, 5 inches for third place at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships in Seattle. That mark is the fifth-best distance in WSU women's triple jump history. During the 2007 outdoor season Burns was consistently a 40-foot plus jumper and she began the 2008 indoor season with a PR triple jump and WSU Open meet record of 40-6.
"Sarah definitely has the ability to be an NCAA jumper," WSU assistant coach and jumps specialist Matt McGee said. "She is stronger this year. She dropped a little bit of weight but with jumps it is more about power to weight ratio so anytime you can get stronger and stay the same weight it is great. She is stronger and lighter so that is definitely a plus."
McGee notes the biggest difference for Burns is that she switched her legs, a major change for a triple jumper. Last year she was a left first phase, left second phase, right third phase jumper and now she is right, right, left jumper, a change which would shock a lot of people because Burns implemented it as a senior.
"It was evident last year that Sarah's right leg is stronger even though her left leg may have been more coordinated and we have been working on that all fall," McGee said. "Her second phase has always been her limiting factor with her jump. She would have a good third phase but she would lose so much momentum during the second phase that the third phase could only be so good. No one is strong enough to add momentum (in the middle of a jump) if you've already lost it during the second phase. So far we are happy with the change. Having Sarah break Blessing Ufodiama's 2004 WSU Open meet record this year is a good sign for the rest of the year."
Reflecting on her progression through the last three years at WSU, Burns said, "I am a different athlete now. I know what to expect now. I am able to connect the mental to the physical. As a freshman I didn't realize the potential that I had."
She has set personal goals for herself of performing at the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. Burns said, "I do want to be an All-American before I leave WSU."
Burns' other performances are more vocal in nature.
In her capacity as the 2008 Cougar women's team captain, Burns is called upon to provide inspiration talks to the team prior to competitions.
"I like speaking to the team and motivating them," Burns said. "I did it in high school but this is another level. There are more people and some are already All-Americans. It has helped me become a better athlete because I realize as a team captain they expect more out of me. It has pushed me to another level."
WSU Head Coach Rick Sloan agrees, "I think we have two outstanding captains in Jon Jeffreys and Sarah Burns. Both are great leaders and good students. They know what they want and are not afraid to do the work. From the standpoint of leading verbally they are very good and they also lead very much by example. They are high character individuals and are highly motivated to be successful this year and want our team to be successful as well."
And then there are Burns' singing performances. Burns is as comfortable with a microphone in her hand as she is with her spikes on. She describes her singing style as her own but is quick to point out that her favorite performing artist is Mariah Carey calling her, "my girl, I love her."
"My parents are both singers so I took after them," Burns said. "We used to sing all the time when I was younger. They put me in talent shows and I was in choir and band. I love music."
She did find time to sing the National Anthem prior to a Cougar men's basketball game last November but as for pursuing music in the future, she realizes it will take a big investment of time.
"I have been performing on and off and have done some shows while I've been in college," Burns said. "I've met a lot of people who have promised to help me but it is a long process. You have to put in time in the studio, you have to know people and send your music here and there. That is another part of my life I'm trying to balance out. Being a fulltime student-athlete I haven't had time for singing but I do want to pursue something in music."
Burns' concentration for the immediate future is her track and field endeavors and she is looking forward to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships because she has reached personal-records at the meet in the Dempsey Indoor Facility in Seattle the past three indoor seasons.
"I love going there because the runway is raised and the way it sounds, it makes you feel really bouncy," Burns said. "Outdoors, I like Eugene because I've PR'd there a lot. The atmosphere is different. You get riled up with more people there and the clap is really loud, they are really good at that."
As for her goal for Cougar women's team, "We want to score high at Pac-10s, of course. And I really want the guys to win the UW dual this year. Ever since I've been here, the women have won and the men have lost so I would like to see the guys come away with that. It is always so close so if everybody performs to their ability we should take it."
Rob and I have been together for two years. We understand each other. I know when he's really tired because I know what he went through at practice because I'm out there with him. I know that feeling. Another boyfriend wouldn't understand why I'm so busy. There are a lot of other couples on the team and it seems to work out pretty good.