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Ben Saarel crosses the finish line during the 3200-meter race at the BYU Invitational on Friday. Saarel shattered the Utah state high school record with a time of 8:49.08. Courtesy Ben Herr

Athletes like Ben Saarel don't come along very often.

The Park City High School runner has had a busy year. In addition to winning the 3A cross country title and the Foot Locker West Regional championship last fall, Saarel has been on a tear during the track season too.

At the BYU Invitational on Friday, he shattered the Utah state high school record in the 3200-meter event, finishing in eight minutes, 49.08 seconds, which broke Judge Memorial runner Luke Puskedra's mark by more than five seconds. It was also the fastest 3200 ever run by a U.S. high school athlete at altitude (higher than 3,000 feet).

And that wasn't even the best 3200 time Saarel has posted in 2013.

Earlier this year at the Arcadia Invitational in California, he finished in 8:45.74, winning the meet and securing a No. 1 national ranking.

On Saturday in Provo, Saarel was at it again, setting the 3A record in the 800 with a time of 1:51.91, missing the state record by only .02 seconds.

Park City coach Jeff Wyant said a runner as talented as Saarel doesn't come along very often.

"This is the equivalent of having LeBron James on your high school basketball team," he said. "You just don't see this. It's a unique experience we may never see again in this town."

But, despite the accolades and the record, Wyant said Saarel's not done just yet.

"He's done a lot, so there's not a lot left to do," he said. "But he'll go for the mile (1600) state record at the state meet.


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Then it'll be off to New York for Memorial Day weekend, where he'll compete at the Dream Mile competition with the best high school runners in the nation.

"With the field they've assembled this year, it's probably the strongest ever put together for a high school mile," Wyant said.

Saarel will also try for the state 800 record again at the state track meet, which would make him one of the most versatile distance runners in history.

"Ben is a rare combination from the half-mile and up," Wyant said. "Most (long-distance) people can't go down to the 800. He has the speed at that level."

The state track meet will take place May 17-18 at BYU.