By Dani Barton and Sione Lund (with Brighton High journalism teacher Christine Yee)
Photos by Scott G. Winterton (DeseretNews.com), Ari Davis & Christopher Lund
Brighton High seniors Dani Barton and Sione Lund interviewed each other as each concludes a fantastic high school sports career and prepares to play in college. Here is Part 1 of their interview. Check back later this week for Part 2.
Dani Barton, who finished her graduation requirements in November, is spending time with family before starting at the University of Utah in January.
She was named Ms. Volleyball by the Deseret News and Player of the Year by the Salt Lake Tribune for the 2016 season. Early graduation will keep Barton off the basketball court, where she has been equally dominant during her high school career. She scored more than 1,000 points in her three years for the Bengals and played a huge role in Brighton’s 2015 state title run.
Sione Lund is relieved that he is officially admitted to Stanford University and still plugging away at his senior year classes. Lund ran for 3,714 yards and 36 touchdowns while averaging nearly 10 yards per carry during his four-year career with Brighton football. He also had 322 tackles, 18 sacks and four interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.
Together, they are goofballs, laughing and teasing each other–much like any other teenagers in high school. Individually, Dani Barton and Sione Lund are among the best high school athletes in Utah.
In four years at Brighton, these athletes have played on rising and declining teams, suffered tough losses and experienced the joy of winning state titles – lacrosse for Lund as a freshman and 5A basketball for Barton as a sophomore.
During this time, they’ve also grown a strong friendship rooted in sixth-grade club basketball. It’s a relationship they say they will miss when Barton begins at the University of Utah in January and Lund at Stanford in June.
Barton and Lund both began their high school careers as the youngest members on impressive football and volleyball teams. They both took away lessons that would help them their senior years.
Barton: My freshman year, I just stuck with the seniors on my volleyball team and I don’t necessarily know if that was a good thing because I feel like I missed out a lot on bonding with kids in my own grade. But I kind of just followed around the seniors.
I learned a lot about what I don’t want to do and how I don’t want to treat people. It was all very contentious. It made me very wary of hanging out with girls in high school. I want to include everyone and make everyone feel important, whether they’re a starter or like not even playing. I just want everyone to realize that they have an important role on the team. And that they contribute a lot more than they think.
Lund: I was the same way my freshman year. There was a lot of pressure, you know, just being the backup to the best player that the state has ever had, and [being on an] up-and-coming Brighton team that went to state.
So there was a lot of pressure, of course. It was something new. I had never played running back before, or any of those positions. But it was great, a lot of learning. Just like Dani, I stuck around with all the seniors.
I think now that gave me an advantage at this point to other guys because I had to mature real fast in high school. Just observing everyone and learning from their mistakes. Just knowing how to act and how to deal with things.
So I think it helped me a lot with how to treat others as well. Learning from those guys and learning how they treated others and seeing how others looked up to them. I think mentally it kind of gave me perspective of how to act and become the person I want to be. It did me a great service.
Barton: I remember at some of my first volleyball games I played when I was a freshman, the coaches would always tell me, “You can’t make those freshman mistakes.” And it would just be like a little mistake that the seniors would make, too, and I remembered I’d just get so bothered.
Everyone makes mistakes when they’re playing. That’s how I felt off and on the court. I felt like people are always watching. It makes you think a lot about everything you do. I guess in a sense it does make you grow up a lot faster.
Lund: Yeah, for sure. I think the same thing. A lot is expected of you. And you better grow up fast. But there were definitely times when I could just dink around and just be my normal 14-, 15-year-old self.
At the same time – do I wish I didn’t have to grow up fast? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t take it back. I think that’s what separates Dani from other people, and me, having that mature mentality and having to grow up real fast and make those decisions that others don’t have to deal with.
So at the same time, we don’t really have to be like that all the time. We still like to mess around and act like teenagers, of course. We’re only like 17, 18. And even then, we’re 14- 15-year-olds. The immaturity’s still there.
Barton: I feel like anyone who’s good friends with me knows that I’m just like a complete goofball. I’m always joking around and just trying to make everyone laugh. I’m always dancing and singing. I feel a lot like a normal teenager when I’m doing that with all my friends. But then there’s a huge difference on and off the court. Like two different personalities almost.
Lund: The same with me. When I’m with my friends, everyone is always trying to have a good time and enjoy our last high school years together. I think that’s all we are trying to focus on.
I think for me this past year, especially senior year, I’ve been kind of doing my own thing – just been spending time with my family, and just enjoy everything I can get with them. Really, just my last year before I head out to college. Especially out of state. So I think it’s just trying to hang out with the people I love most.
Barton: Haha. For me it’s the opposite. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with family, but since I’m graduating in November. I’ve been trying to be involved with everything I can be involved with at the school. Going to every single home game that I can go to. And just like, try to make a bunch of memories before I graduate.
(Regarding his time at Waterford Academy):
Lund: (Waterford) challenged me academically to go beyond my comfort zone and push myself, so I brought that here to where I’m trying my best to not only do this but go beyond that and try to find more and learn more.
(I came back to Brighton to) be with my friends, of course. It worked easier with my football schedule. And, I’ve been with these guys my whole high school career, so I wanted to come back and graduate with them. And just enjoy it with them.
As freshmen, Barton and Lund joined teams at their peak. They each had to endure their teams’ eventual declines and fight to improve.
Barton: My freshman year was the year we should’ve taken state (in volleyball), but our team was not a team. We didn’t work well together but we definitely had really great athletes. Then my sophomore year, I had a broken arm so I didn’t play. But I felt like it was almost as if I was the glue because…everything just fell apart. We didn’t even go to state.
Then my junior year, it was just a complete turnaround. I was just so proud of everyone. Everyone just stepped up and I think the biggest thing was we tried our hardest to make each other do everything together outside of volleyball. At first, we would kind of get sick of each other. But at the end of the season, we, honestly, all genuinely loved each other like sisters. And I think that is what gave us our success.
This year I feel like we are even better than last year. And, I want to win state so bad. That’s our goal, but we’ll see what happens. (Brighton finished in fifth place after losing 3-2 to the eventual 5A champions, Lone Peak, in a second-round battle.)
Brighton football was never as good as it was Lund’s freshman year, but the struggle has taught him about attitude and leadership.
Lund: It’s a hard transition, going from winning seasons to barely winning at all. You’re not used to that. You’re used to always making the playoffs every year. … It’s been hard. But you just have to keep a positive attitude and just know that everything will be OK and continue to be a leader. And this just kind of shows the kind of player you are, just how you deal with adversity. And how you bounce back from it.
Dani: Something you’ve done well this season is just being loyal to your team. I feel like, for me at least, I hate losing more than anything. It’s like a personal pride thing that affects me in that way. There’s people who are always just talking crap on our football team, you know, and football players that I’ve talked to who just don’t have any loyalty to our team. And I feel like that’s something that you’ve done really well. As a leader, you’ve kept everyone together.
Lund: I feel like I kind of have to owe it to these guys as well. I owe the school something because this school has given me a lot. This administration has given me a lot. So I kind of feel like I owe a lot to this school as well.
So I just want to be the best Brighton Bengal I can be. Both on the field and in the classroom. It’s just something that I feel like I want to do. I’ve definitely enjoyed football no matter the outcome.
Now that football is over, Lund is mulling his options. He’s looking at lacrosse, where he won a championship his freshman year. He’s also worked out with the baseball team. Barton, meanwhile, is leaving her basketball team just a couple years after winning a 5A title.
Barton: When I talked to [Coach Jim] Gresh about it last year, his response was just so sweet to me. He said, “You need to do what you’re going to do and I’ll be your biggest fan and supporter no matter what.”
I was so scared to tell him because I thought he’d be really mad at me but the fact that he said that just made me feel a lot more at peace with my decision. Because it was a really hard decision to make because I felt like I was letting down my entire team, my coaches and I just felt really bad. But he just made that decision easier.
Brighton High seniors Sione Lund and Dani Barton shared this interview with journalism teacher Christine Yee as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year.