DARKE COUNTY – An athlete who is finishing his high school career strong and another who is just starting to show her potential are this week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week.
This week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week are Bradford girls cross country runner Karmen Knepp and Arcanum boys golfer Steven Vanatta.
Knepp won the Tour de Sewer cross country meet on Saturday morning in Versailles with a time of 19:15.8, which was more than 30 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, St. Marys’ Kelly Wilker. Her time also was just a second off her career best and the Bradford school record, which she holds.
“She ran a really, really good race,” Bradford cross country coach Bob Daugherty said. “We’ve been really proud with the amount of works she’s put in, and it definitely shows when she runs.”
Knepp burst onto the running scene last year as a freshman when she qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state cross country meet. After her surprisingly strong season last year, Daugherty said, Knepp has only gotten better.
“She’s definitely grown a lot in the past year,” he said. “A lot of it had to do with experience and a lot had to do with her work ethic.”
With more experience Knepp has become a smarter runner, Daugherty said, which was evident when she finished as the runner up to Alter’s Perri Bockrath at the Cedarville Friendship Invitational.
“She’s definitely been a smarter runner,” Daugherty said. “We saw that at Cedarville. She ran a really smart race at Cedarville and put herself in a position to do well at that race.”
In addition to being an incredible athlete, Knepp has become a strong leader and was named a team captain this year as just a sophomore.
“It’s kind of a lot on her,” Daugherty said.
Knepp is the fastest girls cross country runner in Darke County this year. According to Bradford’s research, she’s also the fastest in the Cross County Conference, her OHSAA district and her OHSAA region in addition to having the 17th fastest time in Division III this year.
With Knepp’s strong performances this year, Daugherty is hoping she can return to state and finish in the top 10.
“She’s a great athlete to coach,” he said. “I think she’s just going to get faster.”
Vanatta has averaged 42 strokes per nine holes this season, which is third best in Darke County. He’s had a strong year despite battling an injury during the season.
“He’s done well,” Arcanum boys golf coach Todd Shannon said. “He’s bounced back since he’s had that injury, and I think he’s playing his best golf right now.”
Vanatta finished tied for ninth overall on Tuesday in the Division III Turtle Creek Golf Course sectional tournament with an 18-hole round of 90. His score was good enough to advance to the OHSAA district tournament.
“I think he played extremely well under the circumstances (with the weather),” Shannon said.
Vanatta has a great work ethic and has earned his success.
“Probably the best work ethic I’ve seen in golf,” Shannon said.
As the lone senior on Arcanum’s boys golf team Vanatta helped lead the Trojans to the CCC postseason tournament championship. He finished seventh overall in the CCC tournament with a round of 85.
Vanatta’s leadership was a key to the success of the young Trojan team this year.
“He’s probably been the best asses we have on the driving range at practice,” Shannon said. “He’s almost been a player-coach throughout the year.”
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.