Lacrosse was her least favorite sport, but it was probably the game at which she was most dominant. How could she quit? This past year she was an All-America. She was also named first-team All-Ivy League in field hockey and second team in ice hockey, which was the game she loved the most. She loved the speed, the excitement of outskating everyone else, and she would hurtle down the ice with reckless abandon in search of either the puck or a passing lane. Her friends say she was crushed last January when she traveled to Lake Placid, N.Y., to try out for the women's national team and failed to make it. Women's ice hockey will debut at the '98 Winter Olympics, and Devens had dreamed of winning a gold medal.
Last August, The Dartmouth, the school newspaper, asked Devens about her demanding schedule. Her answer showed her conflict. While she described her life as "definitely stressful," she admitted that she would have trouble giving up a sport. "It's very intense," she said. "There's not much time to hang out. But I don't know if I would be happy if I quit a team. Part of me wishes I could take a break, but I want to be there, to keep playing."
Her coaches say they encouraged Devens to take breaks, but she refused. It was one of the paradoxes in her young life. She would return home in the summer and complain of exhaustion before heading off to compete in a triathlon.
"I remember last year when we established a policy that she had to take a week off between seasons and relax, and we all laughed because we knew she wouldn't," says Dayton. "Sure enough, somebody would see her running laps in the gym."
Devens sought help from a string of counselors as she went from game to game, season to season. She finally found a counselor she liked and had begun showing up at games with a music tape she had been given to relax. But she kept playing.
Off the field, too, Devens tried to be all things to all people, and always with a smile or a laugh. 'She said she wanted to be the best girlfriend, the best athlete, the best student," says Dolesh. But in her own mind, it seemed, she could never do enough. She would have lunch with someone she met at the rink after a game, drop off a bag of caramel crèmes to Dayton, visit a friend in the hospital, mail a gag gift and fire off a dozen E-mail messages—all between classes and practices.
Even as her friends celebrated her life, some stopped short of expressing complete shock at her death. "It is an awful, awful shame," says one friend. "But Sarah had her struggles."
Her friends say that in the spring of 1994 Devens seemed to struggle emotionally, and Dolesh says they broke up briefly. "She said it was because she couldn't be in a relationship at the time," he says. "She couldn't explain why. I know she was down and depressed."
But that time passed, and friends said that they hoped Sarah had resolved whatever was troubling her. They noticed she was quieter but thought she was looking forward to the Olympic Festival. Devens was a psychology major and spoke of teaching or coaching but had no definite plans for life after Dartmouth. "We talked about going out West and starting a ranch," says Linen. "Or just getting away and being ski bums for a year."
On Monday morning, July 10, Devens called a childhood friend and invited her to go mountain biking. They agreed to meet, but when Sarah didn't show, the friend drove to the Devenses' house, a large wooden structure with the year "1803" above the front door. The friend found Sarah's body and called the police.