Berggren sprints into the future |

Berggren sprints into the future

Tonya Binatbina@skyhidailynews.comGrand County, CO Colorado

Middle Park's Samantha Berggren poses prior to a recent track workout. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

In the proverbial final 100 meters of her high school career, Samantha Berggren is one of Middle Park High School’s most decorated athletes. Already a state title holder in her three chosen disciplines – cross-country running, Nordic skiing and track – Samantha has the chance to crown her achievements at this year’s state track meet, May 19-21, with state titles in all three sports during her senior year. She may punctuate her achievements with her favorite sport, for which she has accepted a full scholarship to Auburn University, a Division I NCAA university in Alabama, where she plans to run cross country and indoor and outdoor track, in the 400 meter and 800 meter.Samantha presently holds the No. 1 spot in the 400 meter among all 3A Colorado high school athletes, and ranks among the top four in the 100 meter, 200 meter, the 800 meter, and the 1600 meter. “She is a rare athlete that comes along every 15 or 20 years,” said 21-year Middle Park High School track coach Jim Courville, who was called out of retirement when he started working with Samantha the summer of her freshman year. Although other Middle Park athletes have achieved statewide successes in fall, winter and spring disciplines, Courville said, it’s rare for an athlete to command success in so many events within a particular sport.”I’ve coached quite a few very good athletes through the years,” Courville said, “but I’ve never coached an athlete with such a wide range of running talent.”Mid-distance comes naturalThe grueling 400-meter and 800-meter races combine sprinting and endurance – traits Samantha readily embraces. Mom Sarah was a sprinter who competed for a brief period in college, and father Jim is “the endurance man.””He’s got such an engine, like when we’re hiking, he can go, go and go,” Samantha said. Samantha started learning of her own talent in track in middle school, she said, and it was around that age she set her sights on some day obtaining a scholarship to an elite running program. “It’s fun to go fast,” she said of mid-distance races. “It’s addicting: ‘Let’s see how fast I can get, how much faster.’ It’s just always been a joy for me.”She is most proud of the 400 meter record she’s held three years running for the 3A division. She was also an 800 meter state record holder, and in 2008 finished third in the 800 meters at the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Omaha, Neb. “It’s hard to believe that the journey that started a few years ago is only weeks to being done,” Courville said. “And it’s the potential start of something greater for her.”Setting the bar high”She’s ready and really anxious for the next step,” mom Sarah said.Planning to study biology in order to one day enter a medical-related field, Samantha said she picked Auburn for its academics and the strength of the track team and the “rise they’re on right now” in athletics. Auburn was among her top five choices that included the University of Southern California, Texas A&M, Stanford, and Louisiana State University.Samantha shared with the Auburn coaches her dream of competing in the Olympics.”They didn’t take it lightly at all,” Samantha said. Instead they outlined a plan on how to build her as an athlete to reach that goal – perhaps Brazil, 2016.But attending the Southern school means she will leave any Nordic aspirations behind.”I love Nordic, I really do, and I know it will always be back home. But track is where my passion is,” she said. “There’s some really fast girls on the team,” she said of Auburn’s program. “That was one of the biggest things I was looking for when I was researching colleges. I want to go to a school where I wasn’t going to be the best, where I was actually going to get kind of buried. And that’s what Auburn has, is just super fast girls that I know are going to definitely kick my butt in a good way – get me better.”It’s an attitude she’s long had, the notion that one can learn from the successes of others, her mom said.Although her competitive streak is strong, she believes, “You’ve never really ‘arrived,’ that you’re always a work in progress,” Sarah said. “She approaches everything like that.””If I’m in a national meet, I can’t guarantee I’ll win,” Samantha said. “So I go into big meets thinking ‘I want to become a better runner today, and use these girls to make me a better runner. “I really try and take every race that I’ve lost to live and learn from.”- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603