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Penney sisters in 1,500 among stories to watch Saturday
Release Date: 04/03/2014
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What: Pepsi Dual - No. 2/4 Oregon vs. No. 9/16 Arizona
Where: Historic Hayward Field
When: Saturday, April 5 - 11:25 a.m.
Watch: Live on the Pac-12 Networks at 1 p.m.
Promotions: Kids 12-and-under are free with the purchase of an adult ticket

by Rob Moseley

From Laura Roesler's attempt to break 2 minutes in the 800 meters, to Liz Brenner's season debut in the javelin, to the simple beauty of the dual meet format, there's much to anticipate when the Oregon track and field program hosts Arizona at Hayward Field on Saturday (11:25 a.m., Pac-12 Networks).

For another event to watch, UO coach Robert Johnson offered his two cents: a pair of Penneys going head to head in the women's 1,500 meters. Oregon senior Sarah Penney will race her younger sister Kate, an Arizona sophomore, with their parents, Beth and Jeff, watching from the stands.

"It'll be fun," Sarah Penney said this week. "She's my younger sister, so I kind of have that intuition of not having her beat me. And of course, she's competing on my home turf. …

"Let the fastest, oldest, wisest sister win."

The sisters have gone head to head in college once before, during the indoor season last winter. Sarah came out ahead in that race, after which the two shared a hug on the track. In the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships this past winter, Sarah finished sixth in the mile for Oregon, in 4 minutes, 43.40 seconds. Running in another section, Kate crossed the line in 4:51.63.

It's not uncommon for friends and family to avoid contact prior to competition. But Sarah said the sisters have stayed in touch during the days leading up to Saturday's race.

"I kind of asked her how fit she was, and how the workouts have been going," Sarah said. "She trusts me in that, and I trust her. There's a point where, we're family until we get to the line, and for 4 minutes and 15 seconds she's just a competitor."

The sisters were raised in a family that thrived on activity. Beth and Jeff participated in marathons and triathlons before focusing on cycling in recent years, and Sarah said she's been running since she was 5 years old.

Try as she might, she couldn't shake her little sister. Kate followed Sarah into soccer when they were kids, and then onto the track.

They raced each other at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, when Sarah was a senior and Kate was a sophomore. Then Sarah opted to leave the state, craving the lush greenery of Oregon — and the high profile UO track and field program.

"I wanted something different, and I wanted somewhere where I could compete at the highest level possible in track," Sarah said. "This is the best place to come."

When it came time two years later for Kate to pick a school, she briefly considered Oregon as well. But only briefly.

"I told her not to come, and she agreed," Sarah said. "We're both competitive. We've gotten a lot closer now that we're not in the same house, so during the summer we'll train together, and that's great. And then it's like, 'All right, good luck, see you on the track.'"

The Penneys might not have seen each other on the track, based on Sarah's first few years at Oregon. Recruited to run middle distances, she was asked to fill a void in the 5,000 her first two seasons.

At the longer distance, "I was good; I just wasn't super, super good," Penney said. Two years ago she dropped back down to the 1,500, and in the last year she's added the 800 to her competitive schedule.

Penney ran that distance the last two weeks, after competing in the mile indoors. She ran 2:08.44 for two laps in the Oregon Preview, then 2:09.24 to cap an intense training week in San Diego over spring break.

Thus, Saturday will be Penney's outdoor season debut in the 1,500.

"I was never that comfortable running indoors," Penney said. "Running outdoors, it makes me feel more at home. I'm more comfortable and confident. I think it will be just like any other day at practice — just go out there and compete."

The only difference will be, Penney's younger sister will be back nipping at her heels Saturday at Hayward Field.

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