DARKE COUNTY – Three of the area’s hardest working athletes have been rewarded with great seasons and now are The Daily Advocate’s MVPs for their respective sports.
Greenville’s Noah Haupt has been named The Daily Advocate’s boys tennis player of the year, Greenville’s AJ Frens has been named The Daily Advocate’s boys track and field athlete of the year, and Arcanum’s Erica Zimmer has been named The Daily Advocate’s girls track and field athlete of the year.
Haupt played at first singles for the Greenville boys tennis team. While his 12-13 record wasn’t the best on the team, the junior clearly was the Green Wave’s best player, coach Dennis Kiser said.
“He was by far our best player,” Kiser said. “I know his record doesn’t show it.”
Playing at first singles, Haupt constantly had to face the opponents’ best players.
“He did great,” Kiser said. “Being No. 1 singles is tough, and he played a lot better than last year. You could just see the improvement because he works on his game all the time.”
Haupt, who was named to the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division’s first team, works on his game almost non-stop, Kiser said.
“Sometimes I think he plays too much if that’s possible,” Kiser said. “Boy, he plays all the time. It’s working for him. As long as he doesn’t get burned out I’m all for it.”
After playing singles throughout the regular season, Haupt teamed up with Craig Manges in doubles for the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament. The duo advanced to the district tournament.
“He made it with Craig, his best friend, and I was happy for them because they’ll play together probably three tournaments this summer as a doubles team, too,” Kiser said.
Frens is one of the top pole vaulters in the United States. This past season he was one of just five high schoolers in Ohio to clear 16 feet in the pole vault.
“You can’t take away from the season he had,” Greenville pole vaulting coach Micah Coblentz said. “He had a phenomenal season this year.”
Frens won the GWOC North championship by clearing a meet record 15 feet 3 inches. During the OHSAA postseason meets he battled a heel injury but still finished as the district runner up by clearing 15 feet and finished fourth in the regional by clearing 15 feet again.
After finishing fifth in the state as a sophomore, his junior season didn’t end like he wanted as he didn’t clear the bar at the OHSAA state track and field meet.
“The way the season ended has just added some fuel to his fire,” Coblentz said.
Frens is so successful because of his work ethic.
“He is an extremely hard and methodical worker,” Coblentz said said. “If he knows there’s something that needs to be worked on he’ll take that little chuck on work on it until he gets better.
“As far as work ethic and just extremely respectful and hard-working kid, you can’t ask for any better athlete to work with. He’s very, very coachable.”
Having already made it to the OHSAA state meet twice, Frens is concentrating on making it back as a senior and looking to finish his high school career atop the podium in Columbus.
“I’m excited,” Coblentz said. “I know he’s looking forward to next year.”
Zimmer, who also has been a two-time state qualifier, finished her high school career on the podium at the state track and field meet. The Arcanum senior threw a personal best 42 feet 1.75 inches in the shot put in Columbus and finished fourth in the state.
“It was awesome really,” Arcanum throws coach Theo Whitaker said. “It really was everything coming together at the right time at the end.”
After feeling disappointed with her performance at the 2015 state meet as a junior, Zimmer worked extremely hard to improve as a senior. She went into the state meet with the goal of doing her absolute best, which she achieved with her record throw.
“I was really happy for her,” Whitaker said. “I was really proud of her. I was really excited. It was like my daughter out there because we spent so much time together the last four years.”
Zimmer holds Arcanum’s record in the shot put and also holds the school record in the discus with a throw of 124 feet. Zimmer showed the most improvement during her four-year career in the discus, which is one of the hardest throws because it’s so technique driven, Whitaker said.
“She put all the work in she could,” he said. “She’s probably put in the most hours of anybody on the track team.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.