There was no running program in the Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau School District when a 12-year-old Dana Feyen had no outlet where she could chase her dreams.
That’s when parents Sara and Michael Feyen realized they had a running prodigy on their hands.
“We were putting her in community 5Ks, and I thought I was paying 25 bucks so she could get a medal and a T-shirt,” Sara Feyen said Saturday. “Then our pastor came up to us and said (Dana) isn’t only winning first in her age division, she’s winning first woman overall, and it would do her a discredit to not pay more attention. We really did not know what to do with it.”
The Feyens know what they have now — a multiple-time state track and field and cross country champion with a dominant and continually developing WIAA state tournament resume and a promising future as a college athlete.
Feyen’s steady but spectacular career ascension continued Saturday at the WIAA state track meet at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex when she captured the Division 2 1,600-meter run to cap an impressive distance sweep.
Feyen held off Denmark’s Leah Kralovetz and Coulee Conference rival Jillian Weston of Viroqua to win in 5 minutes, 0.20 seconds. She opened the event by pulling away to win 3,200 on Friday by 17 seconds ahead of Kralovetz.
One year after getting tracked down by Weston in the last 200 meters and falling short in the 1,600, Feyen showed her improved finishing kick hold off Kralovetz.
“I definitely run from the front,” she said. “That’s what I normally do, and I knew I had to get a gap before the last 100 meters, because my top end speed isn’t the greatest yet.”
But it’s still pretty good, just like her state finishes in state cross country and track and field events.
Feyen was runner-up in Division 2 at state cross country as a freshman before winning titles the last two seasons in the fall. She’s enjoyed a similiar rise in track and field, taking second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600 as a freshman. As a sophomore she won the 3,200 and was runner up in the 1,600.
Feyen’s attention to detail is what sets her apart from the competition, her coach said.
“She does all the little things right,” G-E-T coach Matt Wenthe said. “I’ve had great, elite athletes that practice hard and train well, but she does all the little things — uses foam rollers every night, watches her nutrition, puts in huge miles and knows when to advocate for a break.”
Like many elite athletes, Feyen is already thinking about the next challenge, which this summer includes national and regional cross country events before preparing to defend her back-to-back cross country titles in the fall.
In addition to her running feats, she’ll also start diving into where to attend college. Considering her athletic and academic pedigrees — Feyen is a candidate to be valedictorian of her senior class — she’ll have no shortage of options.
“This is kind of how she rolls,” Sara Feyen said. “She puts full effort into whatever she approaches, and she’s found running and a passion there. She applies herself to coaching, reads articles, watches her sleep and nutrition, and approaches running in such a thoughtful way. It’s served her well.”
It’s a long way from the early stages of Feyen’s dream-chasing when her parents had no idea where it would lead.
“She used to practice with the high school team, but wasn’t allowed to compete (as a 12-year-old),” Sara Feyen said. “Now G-E-T has a middle school team. We’re not sure if she inspired it a bit, but it’s been fantastic.”