DARKE COUNTY – A pair of freshmen who qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association regional cross country meet are this week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week.
This week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week are Franklin Monroe boys cross country runner Cole Van Hook and Versailles girls cross country runner Kara Spitzer.
Spitzer is the third-fastest girl among Darke County runners this fall with a personal-best time of 20:02.
“Kara is a very hard worker in all of her day-to-day training,” Versailles cross country coach Mark Pleiman said.
Spitzer led the Versailles girls at the OHSAA district meet at Miami Valley Career Tech Center as she finished 12th overall with a time of 20:08.76 to lead the Lady Tigers to a fifth-place finish and a spot at the regional meet.
“Kara is the silent leader type,” Pleiman said. “She definitely leads by example.”
Spitzer has led Versailles throughout the season and been among the best runners in each meet. Among her accomplishments she finished 10th at the Bob Schul Invitational at Milton-Union, finished third at the Treaty City Invitational at Greenville, finished eighth at the Tour de Sewer in Versailles and finished 10th at the Midwest Athletic Conference meet.
“As the season has progressed she has gotten better and better and has become a real student of the sport,” Pleiman said.
Van Hook was one of just three Darke County boys to qualify for the OHSAA regional meet as he finished 22nd overall in the districts at Miami Valley Career Tech Center with a time of 17:41.23.
“No matter who you are or what school you are at, if you are a freshman qualifying for the regional meet, it’s a huge deal,” Franklin Monroe cross country coach Rick Ingold said. “To get the experience of high level competition like this is so valuable for where we want to be in the future.”
For the season Van Hook has a personal-best time of 17:19, which is fourth fastest among all Darke County runners.
“I think that Cole has a true love for running that many other cross country athletes don’t possess,” Ingold said. “Probably most importantly, though, his passion doesn’t just show on race day. Monday-Friday he is just as excited to run his workout as he is on Saturdays. To truly be dedicated to a goal and to love what you’re doing makes all of the difference in the world.”
Van Hook has improved throughout the season. He finished 38th at the Bob Schul Invitational, 43rd at the Treaty City Invitational, 10th at the Patriot Invitational at Tri-Village, sixth at the Blazer Invitational at National Trail and eighth at the Cross County Conference meet.
“Cole is having a fantastic season,” Ingold said. “We knew he was a very special athlete last year when he competed so well as an eighth grader, but the transition from the 2 mile race to the 5K can be difficult. In Cole’s case, I think he is actually better suited to run the high school 5K race. He started the season off with a very solid race at MUHS and really hasn’t looked back since then. However, I think his best all-around race was last Saturday at MVCTC. He looked poised and comfortable throughout the race. Consequently, he finished in the top 25, earning his bid to the regional meet. We’re obviously very proud of his accomplishments this year.”
Ingold expects Van Hook to only get better throughout his high school career.
“I really think the sky is the limit for Cole,” Ingold said. “In my six years as a head coach, he is the fastest runner that has been a part of this program … and he is only a freshman. I believe there is a very bright future on the horizon for Cole and, as a result, also for the Franklin Monroe cross country program.”
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.