Sarah Barrett has a lot going on.
The same is true for most New England Patriots Cheerleaders, who just wrapped up auditions for the 2023 squad. But while many of her teammates celebrate Friday's final roster announcement, Barrett will only be a third of the way through her busy weekend.
By that point, she'll be on her way to check into the Miss Connecticut USA pageant, and after competing for the crown, she'll run the Boston Marathon on Monday. It may sound like a ton to balance while working full-time and raising a four-year-old boy, but Barrett doesn't see why being a single mother has to stop her from achieving her goals.
"At the end of the day, I really had to go after the things that I was passionate about and know that I'm doing them for me, but also my son," Barrett said. "He's gonna grow up seeing his mom who persevered and continued to chase after all these things and overcame any challenges to get where she wanted to be."
Barrett first tried out for the squad in 2018, when she was on an Army ROTC track at the University of Connecticut planning to become an officer.
She made it to boot camp that year to unexpectedly find out she was pregnant after the first day of the next phase.
"I felt awful when I got home from boot camp, and actually found out that day," Barrett said. "I dropped out of contention that year. Tracy Sormanti called me and I just talked it through with her. I told her I just need to figure out what I'm doing right now. I very specifically remember her telling me that this was not the end of my journey, and to keep an open mind and do what's best for me."
With that advice, and the birth of her son that November, the trajectory of her life dramatically changed. It was hard to avoid subtle implications that certain doors would now be closed off to her, but she was motivated to challenge that, even if her plan was changing course.
Rather than becoming an Army Officer, she got her undergraduate degree in human development and family studies and then continued her education while raising her baby boy.
She returned to audition the next year, just months after giving birth, but wouldn't make the team until two years later in 2021. Along the way, she earned a master's degree in school counseling and applied psychology from NYU and an advanced certificate in higher education from Columbia. She'd found her way into coaching high school and collegiate track & field.
Barrett believes she would have kept trying out for the team if she didn't make it, but the timing couldn't have been better.
"I always say this to my kids as a coach, too, that no matter what you're doing, if you're doing something that's a challenge, you're always gonna have to accept that risk of failure," Barrett said. "But I think that accepting that risk and being vulnerable helps you grow as a person."
That's her mentality going into the weekend.
She already has a marathon under her belt, having ran Providence's race last year. It started off as something to check off her bucket list initially, but she fell in love with training, learning a lot about consistency, dedication, and herself along the way.
The community she met through running not only keeps her motivated to get her miles in, but also makes her want to get more involved.
"I'm very passionate about advocating for athletics and equity in sports," Barrett said, having made the most of every opportunity after being adopted from South Korea and raised in Connecticut. "There are so many fantastic charities and nonprofits that put on races, and there's such a great network of runners who support great causes. It's kind of made me stick with it and want to get more involved in this whole running world."
After Boston on Monday, Barrett plans to run the Berlin Marathon in Germany, with aspirations of also racing in Tokyo, Chicago, London, and New York City to complete all six of the Abbott World Marathon Major courses.
Her family has been just as crucial in helping to care for her son, given the significant time required for her training.
As for Miss Connecticut USA, competing in the pageant was one of the few doors Barrett accepted would be closed after she became a mom.
"I had done pageants when I was in high school as a teen, and honestly that prepared me so well to be a member of the cheer team because you're really a community ambassador when you're a pageant title holder. That's kind of the job," Barrett said.
"I had always hoped to compete as an adult, but until a few months ago, pageants weren't generally allowing anyone who was married, was a mom, or even who had legal guardianship over a child that wasn't theirs. It was in the name. It was Miss -- you had to be single never married, no kids. They just changed that role this past fall. But until then I had kind of just counted myself out. I was like, okay, you know, I'm having to be a mom and I'm never gonna compete again. As soon as they changed it I knew I wanted to go for it."
This weekend, Barrett will be doing much more than competing on a stage for a sash and running 26.2 miles across a painted-yellow finish line.
In the same way she became a Patriots Cheerleader after having her son and remaining persistent, Barrett has made it a point to try the more challenging course so that others can see what's possible.
"It's kind of my personal mission – in sports and in general," said Barrett, who will be representing her hometown Milford, CT in the pageant this weekend.
"I'm the youngest female head coach in Connecticut. I'm one of the youngest female track coaches in the entire NCAA. I have always wanted to be a trailblazer for women, moms, and really anyone who's faced challenges that have left them shut out of opportunities. With the right resources and the right support systems you can make it happen."