BUHL — Carlee Finney turned out to be a college-caliber runner, but growing up, she wanted to be a horse.
Running was always a passion, but Finney said she ran like a horse in elementary school, which curbed her ability. It sure would have been easier to be a horse, she thought.
By middle school, the galloping turned into a more conventional running style. And the results quickly followed.
Finney signed with Treasure Valley Community College on Monday. The Buhl High School senior will run cross country and track for the Chukars, continuing a career she only recently realized could extend into adulthood.
“I didn’t think I could ever get to that level,” Finney said Monday after her signing ceremony at Buhl. “I sat back and I kinda thought, ‘Maybe I could do this.’ And I could have, and I obviously did. My goal entirely is to take this as far as I can, as long as I can. Why not?”
Finney enjoys cross country and is happy to continue the sport at TVCC, but this past fall season was her first for the Indians’ cross country team. Her best finish in nine races was 19th.
Track has been a much more prevalent and successful sport for Finney. Her worst finish in any race last spring was fifth place. She led Buhl’s 4x400 meter relay team to six first-place finishes, including a district title. Her 4x200 and sprint medley relay teams didn’t win a race, but their worst finish was fourth.
Finney’s lone individual event last season was the 400 meters, and her worst finish in seven races was fourth. She won three 400-meter races, including the district tournament final.
Last year, Finney began to understand that a college career was possible. So she reached out to several small schools throughout the west, hoping one would bite. TVCC did.
TVCC cross country and track coach Blas Guerra didn’t need to look much further than Finney’s 400-meter times to decide that she would be a good addition to his programs. But her speed wasn’t her only attractive trait.
“She has a great attitude, and she wants to do well,” Guerra said. “Her work ethic is probably the biggest (strength). Being as positive as she is, I think that’s gonna be a huge advantage for her.”
Finney said she’ll receive about $3,600 in scholarship money. She was interested in Lewis-Clark State College, and she talked with Idaho State. As much as she wants to attend a Division I program, ISU wasn’t the right fit, she said.
Finney’s personal record in the 400 is 59.87 seconds, which she posted as a freshman. She obviously hopes to eclipse that this spring, and she set another benchmark for her two-year career with the Chukars.
“Coach Blas asked me, ‘What do you want to run?’ I just threw out a random number and said, ‘I want to run a 55 in two years,’” Finney said. “That was the first time that a college (coach) was like, ‘OK, yeah, let’s do it.’”
Guerra’s athlete-focused approach sold Finney on his programs. So many coaches, she said, wanted her to fit into their program, instead of the other way around.
Now that her college choice is sealed, Finney can focus on her senior track season and work to extend her college career past two years. Her equine dreams disappeared long ago.
“Same dream, different kind of track, I guess you could say,” she said.