Harley Sutton crosses finish lines. It's just kind of what she does.
The Hobart junior runs the 100- and 300-meter hurdles for the Brickies, having also participated in the 200-meter dash and relays in the past. She runs cross country in the fall.
On Saturday nights in the late spring and summer, Sutton races her Dodge Neon on the clay track at Shadyhill Speedway in Medaryville.
"They're definitely both about mind games. You have to be mentally tough for both (track and racing)," Sutton said. "And they have the same goal -- to win."
The difference is in the preparation, she said. Sutton loves working on the car with her dad, Guy, who serves as her mechanic and crew chief. But she admits that running is a time when she can stop thinking and just concentrate on getting better.
She's posted personal bests of 16.38 in the 100-meter hurdles and 49.4 in the 300-meter hurdles this season.
"I wish we had a lot more athletes like her. She's not quite on an elite level, but she's very very good at what she does," Brickies coach Mike Black said. "Harley is exactly the kind of performer every team needs. She knows her role and does her best to perform."
Sutton began racing "quads," better known as ATVs or four-wheelers, when she was six-years-old. She was 13 when she spent the weekend with her grandparents and went to the dirt track.
Grandpa James Henson saw Sutton's enthusiasm for the sport and talked to her parents about going halves on a car he'd found. She still drives that same four-cylinder 1998 Dodge Neon, purchased with a roll cage and ready to race for $500.
"I was on board immediately," Guy Sutton said. "She'd been racing four-wheelers already and with a cage it would be a little safer."
The Suttons did experience a scary moment when Harley went into the wall during a race last year. She appeared to be fine that night, but her head began to ache at the next track meet in Lowell.
She had suffered a concussion and not realized it during the crash.
"Every single time (Harley races) I'm worried about something," Guy Sutton said. "I always make sure I did my job over and over and over again. I don't want anything to go wrong."
Sutton has notched three feature race wins --including this past Saturday-- and finished second in points in the Teen-4 division last season at Shadyhill, about a half hour south of Kouts. She was fourth in points this season, as of May 3.
She hopes to earn a track scholarship and pursue a degree in electric engineering. Guy said watching his daughter don a cap and gown and accept that degree would be better for him than seeing her win the Daytona 500.
The financial requirements of advancing in racing will make it difficult for Sutton to ever move beyond the local tracks. But Sutton is far from done crossing those finish lines.
"I'll never stop racing," Harley Sutton said.