By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Off the course, Sarah Bentley is as nice and kind as can be. When the gun goes off, however, she has a burning desire to win and that quality is appreciated by her teammates and coaches alike.
“I try to lead by example and encourage everyone to relax and have fun,” Bentley says. “At the same time, I like to push myself.”
Now the senior captain, she has helped Palisades High’s girls cross country team qualify for the state meet the last three years and she wants to do so one last time.
“Sarah has been fabulous for four years—you couldn’t ask for a better leader,” says former Pali High cross country coach Bob Macias, who was at last week’s semifinals to watch the Dolphins win their Division I heat paced by Bentley’s second-place effort. “She’s mentally strong in races and she’s always doing the right things. One example is the state meet last year when she was our top runner, only 10 seconds behind [City champion] Sofia Abrego.”
Bentley took third at City finals last year behind Abrego and Palisades’ Miranda Schriver. One of her most satisfying results to date came at the prestigious Mt. SAC Invitational in October when she ran three miles in 18:51 to win the Division 1 varsity girls race.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” she admits. “I’ve struggled a bit with injuries this season, but I’m hoping to finish strong.”
Bentley, a two-time City 3200 meter champion in track, lives near St. Matthew’s School and went to Marquez Elementary. She tried basketball at the Palisades Recreation Center and swam for Westside Aquatics but ultimately grew to love running while attending Paul Revere Middle School.
A stellar student who has a 4.5 weighted GPA, Bentley is a math whiz and hopes to get into MIT. Her brother Jack is on Palisades’ freshman basketball team.
“I enjoy the team aspect of cross country but I like the intensity of track being in a stadium,” she said. “Winning City as a freshman was a great accomplishment but what I cherish most is going to state every year with the team.”
Palisade co-coach Gwendolen Twist, a distance runner herself, is most impressed by Bentley’s commitment to the program: “Sarah does a great job bringing the girls along. They all look up to her.”