RED BUD — Unlike most of the top athletes in their respective events, all eyes won't be on Red Bud senior Brittney Burmester when she steps to the starting line Thursday afternoon for her 1,600-meter semifinal at the Class 1A girls state track and field meet in Charleston.
But maybe they should be.
Burmester enters the 2013 Class 1A finals with the state's fastest regular-season times in the 1,600 meters (5 minutes 11 seconds) and 3,200 meters (11:05) and a desire to go even faster.
Running against the likes of Decatur St. Teresa standouts Ivy Handley and Megan Burgener, Burmester knows she must be at her best.
"I'm definitely going to be trying to win both of them,'' Burmester said Monday. "Up until recently, I didn't really know if it was possible to do it, but after I ran my times of 5:11 and 11:05, I think I'm more sure of myself.
"I think now I can push myself to go as low as I can.''
Burmester's top times came at a small meet in Dupo earlier this month, but her time of 5:20 in the 1,600 recorded at the Sparta Sectional last week was the best in the state among all sectional qualifiers, and her 11:24 in the 3,200 trails an 11:20 by Handley.
Handley won the Class 1A state cross country title in November.
But for Burmester, her rise as one of the state's top distance runners has come rather quickly. The Musketeers' No. 3 cross country runner as a sophomore, Burmester's goal in track and field that year was to break the school record in the 800.
Headed to Rend Lake College, Burmester now owns all of the Red Bud distance running marks.
"Brittney didn't run cross country her freshman year, because we didn't have it. She played volleyball,'' Red Bud coach Robert Ashley said. "Then her sophomore year she was our No. 3 runner. I remember how disappointed she was when she didn't even get out of regionals.
"The turning point was when she wanted the 800-meter record her sophomore year. Brittney is pretty easy going, but when you put a goal in front of her, she goes after it. She got hooked on running and she hasn't stopped since.''
The trip to the Class 1A state meet is the second in as many years for Burmester, who failed to medal in either the 1,600 or the 3,200 a year ago.
But after a summer of training, which included runs of 12-to-14 miles maybe twice a week, Burmester went from an average runner to being the best in school history, when she placed 10th at the Class 1A state cross country meet.
"I saw Ivy (Handley) and St. Teresa's Rachel Devereux in the late going of the state meet. I just couldn't catch up,'' Burmester said. "I'm a runner who likes to keep the pace, until I see what kind of race it's going to be. I have a kick.
"I just don't want to start my kick too late in the race.
Although somewhat small in stature, Burmester has the competitive drive to be a champion. That added with her natural speed and endurance has made her a probable NCAA Division I runner in two years.
"What makes Brittney so good? She likes competition. She just likes to beat people,'' Ashley said, laughing. "She also has a tremendous sense of the race. Some things can't be taught. Some things you're born with. She was born with that sense of pace.
"This weekend? She's got the best times in the state in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters this year. I think we both feel she's going to win something."
Burmester also would like to break the magic marks of 5 minutes in the 1,600 meters and 11 minutes in the 3,200.
"I think it's something I could do. A lot depends on the weather conditions and the way the races are run,'' Burmester said. "Am I putting any pressure on myself to win one? Not really. But I really want to."