DARKE COUNTY – While there often are several athletes contending for the title of Darke County’s best, sometimes one or two easily stand out from the crowd.
In cross country this season, there was little doubt throughout the year who were the best runners in Darke County this year. Those runners put up times no other runners in the county could come close to, leading them to being named Darke County’s 2011 cross country MVPs.
The 2011 Darke County boys and girls cross country runners of the year are Versailles boys cross country runner Samuel Prakel and Versailles girls cross country runner Tammy Berger.
Prakel had one of the best seasons ever for a cross country runner as he won the 2011 Division III boys cross country individual state championship. The Versailles junior ran a 15:19.34 at the state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, which was a personal best for him and was among the best in the history of the state championship meet. Prakel’s time at this year’s state meet was the best of all runners, regardless of division.
Prior to winning the state title, Prakel won many other championships including regional, district and Midwest Athletic Conference titles.
Prior to the state meet, Versailles cross country coach Mark Pleiman said Prakel’s regional race was one of the best races he’s ever seen. Prakel went on to do even better at state.
Berger, who won Division III girls cross country individual state titles in 2009 and 2010, finished fifth in the state as a senior. Berger finished in the top six of the state meet in each of her four years of high school.
While Berger didn’t win a state championship this year, she did run her career best time of 18:04 at the MAC championship meet. She finished as the runner up in that race.
Berger grew taller this year, which increased her stride and helped her to improve her times this season, Pleiman said.
Among her accomplishments this fall, Berger won district and regional championships to add to her lengthy high school résumé.
Berger’s top time of 18:04 was one minute 39 seconds better than the next best time from all Darke County girls cross country runners this season.