By Dani Barton and Sione Lund (with Brighton High journalism teacher Christine Yee)
Photos by Ari Davis, Christopher Lund & Kurt Johnson
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 2 of their conversation. See the link at the end of the story to read Part 1.
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.
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.
(On choosing to attend the University of Utah):
I was SO set on USC my entire freshman year. There was nothing that was going to stop me from going there. When they offered me, I would have committed right there on the spot. And I kind of did. I basically verbally committed, but then my mom was like: “No, we need to go on a visit; you have to do this the right way.” For me it was almost like a pride thing. They were the best at sand volleyball. They still are. And I just wanted to be like (one of the top two recruits to go).
And then I went on a visit there and it was their homecoming week, so we went to a football game and it was really wild. I think that part of your college experience is fun and everything. But I want to be the best volleyball player out of Utah ever.
And I feel like being in that environment I would not focus like I should have. It was a really hard decision. And sometimes I think about how nice it would be to go there and be living by the beach and be able to just drive to beach whenever.
But at Utah, I love the coaches. My best friend is on the team. And, I don’t know, some people may think this is weird… but having my brothers there, I feel like that’s an experience hardly any people will ever be able to have. And my parents went there.
It’s kind of like a family legacy. I picked [volleyball over basketball] because volleyball I’ve always just loved just a little bit more. I mean, whatever one I’m playing at the time is my favorite. But volleyball I feel just challenged me more mentally. You have to be tougher, not physically, but mentally. You have to grit. That’s what I really love about volleyball.
A Stanford commit, Lund did not initially think he stood a chance at his “dream school” until his coach gave him a pep talk.
Lund: It’s definitely hard. You have a ton of schools that are still reaching out to you and in constant contact with you. It’s hard just because it’s a distraction. No offense to any other school. It almost takes your eye off the goal. And really you’re just trying to maintain the final outcome. So for me, it’s like, I don’t want to go anywhere else. This is where I want to go. Stanford is my dream school and this is the place for me.
Barton: Has it always been your dream school? Or was it like once they offered or started talking to you?
Lund: I don’t know. Freshman year, it was like there was no way I’d ever get into a school like Stanford. It was definitely a place I liked. Coach (Ryan) Bullett pulled me into the office and was like, “Hey, you’ve got to focus on going to a school with the best education. Stanford is the place for you.” Ever since then, it’s kind of been my main focus. My main goal. I give a lot of thanks to Coach Bullett for giving me that perspective. Before that I was just trying to go to the League.
Barton: from high schooool? Hahaha.
Lund: Hahaha. Yeah. I was like, I just want to go to the NFL. Talking to Coach Bullet. He kind of put me in my place. Like, “Hey, you need to make money after football, and this is the best place for you.” And so I give a lot of credit to Coach Bullett and all props to him for giving me that road to go down.
Blessed with several scholarship offers, both Barton and Lund committed as juniors to take away the stress of recruiting.
Barton: I was stressed before I committed because I was not sure what I was going to do. I was juggling all the options. In the back of my mind, ever since I was kid I had always imagined myself going to Utah. But then, kind of what like Sione said, you get distracted by other schools. It’s like, “Oh, they have this” or “they have this.”
It sounds stupid, but I just prayed about it. I just gave it so much thought. When I wanted to go to USC, I prayed about it a lot. And I did not get a peaceful feeling at all. But when I thought about going to the U and talked with the coaches and everything, I just felt like it was the right fit. When I committed it was just a huge weight off my shoulders, I felt …. just relaxed I was so happy with my choice.
Lund: It was relieving for sure. I felt a sense of peace. Finally, it wasn’t so chaotic. And I think that’s why I did it so early. It was to try to get rid of the chaos from recruiting and how crazy it can get with just being under the constant communication and contact with coaches. I did that to just try to feel like a sense of peace. And instead focus on what I needed to do for that one school. It’s definitely helped me out a ton.
Barton: I feel like when other coaches are still talking to you and everything, before you’ve committed, you feel like you’re leading everyone on. In the back of your mind, you know where you want to go. And it’s almost like you get this relationship with these coaches, and then you feel bad because you’re like, “This sounds awesome,” but you still know where you want to go.
Lund: and of course, you want to show respect to all these other schools.
Lund: Dnd not completely blow them off because in life anything can happen.
Barton: It’s just nice once you make your decision because you don’t have to feel like you’re deceiving them anymore.
Dreams don’t just stop at college. Barton dreams of playing in the Olympics like fellow Utahn Logan Tom.
Barton: I actually met (Logan Tom) the other day and was talking to her. She is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Her personality? Wow. I don’t even know what to describe her as. If she wants something, she goes and gets it.
For me, after college people have asked me what I want to do as a job. I honestly can’t think of a time I’m not playing volleyball. It’s obviously a far shot, but my main goal is – I want to be in the Olympics. Like really, really, bad. And obviously saying that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
I’m going to have to work super hard at it. But that’s definitely my main goal. I want to play professional, also internationally. I think that would be really awesome to go to a different country and learn their language. Also playing volleyball more.
I want to go [to the Olympics] for both. I want to go for indoor probably first because I feel like your body can only take so much pounding on a hard floor. And then I want to go for sand. So we’ll see. I get so excited talking about it. And Utah is getting sand this spring. That was another big part of going to Utah. They got a sand program in there. That would be awesome to be able to build that program. I’m super excited just talking about it.
Will these two see each other in the Olympics?
Barton: Would you want to (play rugby in the Olympics)?
Lund: That would be sweet. Hahaha. No! I don’t think I have the stamina for that.
Barton: I bet you could. I bet you could.
Lund: No. I love rugby, but I think I’m retired.
Lund would like his future to begin on the offensive side of Cardinal football.
Barton: Do you want to be a running back in college?
Lund: Yeah. I think I’ll probably play running back in college. I think that’s why I chose Stanford…
Barton: You don’t think you’ll be a fullback?
Lund: Probably. I don’t know. (Both laugh.) Just depends what they mold me into. Right now, with how much I weigh, I’ll probably be a fullback. But once I get there and I actually have a good nutrition plan, I think things will change. As long as I’m on the offense side of things in college, especially at Stanford and that O-line, I won’t complain. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Barton: You don’t ever want to play defense?
Lund: No. I think I’m done with defense. I enjoyed it. I think they do get the credit they get, but…
Barton: You want to score?
Lund: Yeah. There’s no better feeling than scoring a touchdown. That’s who gets all the glory.
At the end of their high school careers in football and volleyball, Lund and Barton return to their friendship. Their admiration for each other today is not so different from when they were in middle school.
Lund: What I admire about Dani is that she is probably the best female athlete I’ve ever seen, or known, or been around with.
Barton: Thank you.
Lund: Of course! I think what I most admire about Dani is the fact that, from what I’ve seen over the past three years of high school, is it doesn’t matter who you are. You can be a no one to someone, and she will treat you the same. And I think with Dani that’s been the consistent thing I’ve seen always.
She’ll probably see someone sitting in the hall alone and go sit with them. And that’s just the kind of person Dani is. And that just kind of blows my mind. You don’t have to be like that. You can be like, “Okay, I’m this big shot. Big time. I’m going to Utah for volleyball and I’m the best.”
But it’s definitely not like that with her. I think that’s a characteristic that Dani has that many athletes of her hype and rank don’t do.
Barton: I think with Sione, something I admire a ton is he always wants to do the right thing. His intentions are always good. Sometimes you make the wrong decision. Hahahah. But I feel like you just want to be pleasing and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I admire that so much.
Obviously, on the field you’re a competitor. But I feel like off the field you don’t want problems with people, you just want to get along, and I think you do a really good job of making people feel at ease when they are around you. Because someone as popular as you and as good at football like you, people are going to be intimidated by you, and I totally understand that.
But I feel like you do a good job of … when you’re off the field you’re just like a normal guy. And you relate to everyone. I really admire that. That’s something I try to work on that I see in you a lot.
Barton: We don’t hang out all the time, but I feel like we throughout high school have been best friends. You’ve helped me out through problems. And I’ve helped you out through problems. And I feel like you’ll always have my back. Every single year we’ve grown closer through our friendship. Something that I’ll always remember about high school with Sione is that he’s always been that person that I can tell anything to. I’ll definitely miss that when he’s at Stanford.
Lund: I agree. Just over the years we’ve become a lot closer with each other. I’m truly appreciative of that because I’ve learned a lot from Dani. She has taught me a lot of things.
I think being at Brighton is something special. I don’t see the things that I see at Brighton that I do at other schools. I think being a Brighton Bengal truly means something. And that’s why it means a lot to me.
On social media, I’m totally conceited about it. Haha. Because I love Brighton. From the athletic departments to every other club and event we have going around here, it’s something special. Just the camaraderie that everyone has here at Brighton is pretty sweet. It’s awesome. I think that’s why I appreciate this school a lot – from the administration to everyone else. The student body as a whole. I think that’s something special.
But there’s nothing better than our friendship that we’ve grown over the years and becoming closer through sports. That’s why we connect so well because you want to be the best in your specific sport and you just want to continue to become a better person.
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.