For Haskins clan, it’s time to smile |

For Haskins clan, it’s time to smile


Brian Haskins was running on fumes by the time Wednesday’s party was in full swing.The High Ridge man had spent the previous weekend fretting and wondering and waiting. The oldest of his four children was on the verge of claiming a berth on the United States Olympic team, and it was impossible to sleep.

As clocks in water-logged Des Moines, Iowa chimed four times on a still-dark Sunday morning, Haskins wandered about a grocery store. It was the start of a long – and glorious – Sunday. It was the start of a long – and, again, glorious – stretch of four days for Haskins, for his family.

Haskins hadn’t had much down time since his pre-dawn trip to the grocery store on June 22. He and approximately 50 family members and friends had been in Des Moines to cheer on Sarah Haskins in her make-it-or-break-it test for a berth on the Olympic women’s triathlon team. The triathlon trial had gone swimmingly – along with runningly and bikingly – for the 27-year-old woman. She was Beijing bound. So was her family.

First, though, Brian Haskins had plans.

There had to be a party. Better still, how about two parties! For Sarah, for the family, for friends, for neighbors around High Ridge, for area political movers and shakers. There were phone calls – Haskins is a quick draw with his cell phone – and e-mails and faxes. Come one, come all.

So there he was Wednesday, 80 exhilarating hours or so removed from that Des Moines grocery store, stepping to the front of a room full of friends, family and media at Pegg’s on the Boulevard in High Ridge. He introduced Sarah, a triathlete built of equal parts sunshine and steel. He introduced the television sports anchor and cameraman who had spent the morning with Sarah. He reminded everyone to be sure to have something to eat and asked the TV reporter to please speak up during interview so that everyone could hear.

And he smiled. And smiled. And smiled.

“Does dad stop smiling?” KSDK-TV sports anchor Renee Knott asked.

“He’s excited,” Sarah Haskins says.

Excited is something of an understatement.

“I can’t get enough of it,” Brian Haskins says.

Sarah Haskins, who locked up her Olympic berth with a sixth-place finish in the triathlon at Des Moines, says the visit here, to see family, to decompress, came together just about perfectly.

“I don’t have the opportunity to get to St. Louis very often,”she says. “(This time) it works into the schedule.”

Wednesday’s tasty menu at Pegg’s – toasted ravioli, mostaccioli, bread, salad and cake with red, white and blue icing – was a treat and a test for the 5-foot-7½, 128-pound triathlete.

“That wouldn’t be my typical meal. I try to watch my nutrition,” she says.

She’s game, though.

“It does look good,” she says of a piece of cake, long on icing and short on the nutrition, that she’ll share with her toddler niece, Sarah Lauck.

A triathlon is no piece of cake. It is beyond grueling. Start with a one-mile swim, follow with a 25-mile bike race, finish with a 6.2-mile run. It’s a lot to worry about.

For Sarah Haskins, the run-up to the final Olympic trial at Des Moines – the Hy-Vee Triathlon – made the grueling physical test seem like the easy part. The week prior to the trial was more soap opera than sports.

“I was very nervous,” Haskins says.

There were concerns about the event. Flooding forced organizers to move the event, and rumors got back to the athletes that the swim portion of the event might be canceled.

With her Olympic berth on the line, Haskins tried not to be distracted. That proved to be nearly impossible.

“It was more the uncertainty,” she says “It’s: am I going to be racing in Olympic trials in one week or am I not going to be racing in Olympic trials in one week?”

The countdown to the Hy-Vee Triathlon brought more questions than answers.

“We were kind of in limbo. We didn’t hear that it was going to be an Olympic trial until Wedneday, the day after we left for Des Moines,” she says.

About the time officials determined that all the event questions had been settled, another storm popped up. The two U.S. points leaders, both with Olympic berths locked up, were talking about sitting out the Des Moines event.

Sarah Haskins decided she did not have time to let that bit of drama become one of her concerns. “I’m, like, OK, whatever,” she says.

Her dad was not so “whatever.” Her family was not so “whatever.” They worried. They fretted.

Brian Haskins was not surprised his daughter was able to keep her focus while The Days of Our Triathlons had people all around her in a stew.

“She’s always been driven. She’s always been focused,” he says.

“When she was in school, she’d get up in the morning for a 4:30, (or) 5 o’clock swim. Then she’d go to school and then she’d have a cross country practice, and after that she’d be back in the pool,” he says.

That schedule produced state titles in cross country and swimming. That focus produced straight-A report cards.

“She’s tough,” her dad says.

Brian Haskins doesn’t take credit for Sarah’s long list of athletic successes. “Her mom (Becky Redel Haskins) was a good swimmer,” he says.

“Her mom’s family are pretty good athletes,” he said, pointing to a cousin, Matt Beasley, a high school all-America swimmer and Missouri Valley Conference record holder while attending Missouri State.

Haskins waves off his contribution to Sarah’s athletic genes. He played football at Northwest High. Ran track, too. And for 20 years he banged around with the Hornets Rugby Club.

One thing on the just-like-dad check list that’s definitely marked is Sarah’s knack for seeming as ease in front of a crowd. She was smart and sweet and funny when visiting with the crowd of well-wishers at Pegg’s and when barreling from one interview to the next with TV, radio and newspaper reporters.

“This is just part of what I do,” she says of mixing with fans and reporters.

She says she doesn’t quite have her dad’s easy way in front of a crowd.

“Probably, (I’m) a little more like my mom. She’s more on the shy side,” Sarah says.

One thing in Sarah Haskins’s makeup that she definitely shares with her dad is a go-go spirit that doesn’t run out of gas.

She remembers her first triathlon. She wasn’t long out of Tulsa University and her sister, Megan, had signed her up. Haskins remembers she had to borrow a bike for the 2003 event at Innsbrook Resort, near Wright City.

She was a great athlete in great shape, but she still was on empty after completing a 700-meter swim and 27-mile bike ride. And there still was a 6½- mile run left to go.

“I remember I got off the bike, and I almost fell over,” she says.

She didn’t fall over. Instead, she completed the run … and finished second behind former Mizzou swimmer Molly Vetter.

It was the start of a pretty special journey. One day she’s forcing herself to complete an event at Innsbrook, the next – give or take 1,700 days – she’s ranked 10th in the world and eyeing a grab at an Olympic medal at the Summer Games in Beijing, China.

There are no medals for knocking around Des Moines grocery stores fretting about triathlon results, no prizes for rushing home to organize parties, no ribbons for getting the word out about how your daughter has overcome unbelievable odds.

For that, if you have enough energy, there are only smiles.

Posted on: July 1, 2008