By Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News
Samantha Berggren, the star of Middle Park High’s cross country and track teams, has just won her first national championship medal in track.
Berggren, a Panther sophomore, earned a bronze medal in the 800-meter run during the 2008 USATF Junior Olympic Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Omaha, Neb., on July 26.
“In the group I was racing against, you couldn’t afford to hold back anything, and I gave it everything I had,” Berggren said. “I’ve never been so tired after racing an 800 before.”
Competing in the girls Intermediate Division for ages 15-16, Berggren sprinted the 800 meters in a time of 2:09.13 to take third place. Her performance was a personal best time by more than three seconds.
The Junior Olympic race was won by Phillis Francis of Brooklyn, N.Y., who ran a gold-medal time of 2:04.83. The 800 meter’s silver medalist was Nia Fluker of Phoenix, Ariz., who finished in 2:08.69.
Going into the finals of the 800-meter, Berggren said she felt confident that she had a very good chance of medaling.
“I won my preliminary heat with the fifth fastest time for all the heats,” she said. “I thought I might even win the finals, but I didn’t know Phillis had been holding back in her preliminary heat where she ran a 2:13.89. But still, I was surprised and happy to take third.”
Berggren qualified for the 2008 USATF Junior Olympic Outdoor Track & Field Championships by competing in state and regional championships earlier this summer. In each race, she progressively reduced her racing times.
Competing in the USATF Colorado State Championships at Denver on June 21-22, Berggren won the state title in the 800-meter with a time of 2:18.00. She also won first place in the 400 meter with a personal-best time of 55.4 seconds, and took second place in the 200-meter dash.
Moving onto the USATF Regional Championships on July 11-12, she qualified for the nationals with victories in two events. She won the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.68 seconds and the 800-meter run with a time of 2:14.34.
“Competing in track this summer was a great experience and a lot of fun,” Berggren said. “My goal is to work on dropping my times even more and getting good results.”
Her mother Sarah, who was at the championships, agreed. “Running is a complete passion for Sam,” she said. “I think the sky is the limit for her.”
Jim “Cajun” Courville, Berggren’s high school coach for both cross country and track, also attended the nationals to watch her run. He is enthusiastic about her running abilities and her future in the sport.
“Sam is a very special person and a great athlete,” he said. “She really loves to run. It’s a real privilege to coach somebody like her.”
Berggren surprised everyone, including herself, during her freshman year as a member of Middle Park High’s cross country team. Last fall, she won all of her races except two. She earned the runner-up spot in the 3A division’s 5-kilometer race at the 2007 Colorado High School Cross Country Championships.
At the 2008 Colorado High School Track & Field Championships at Pueblo in May, Berggren put on an outstanding performance, winning state titles in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter dashes. She also took second place in the 1600-meter run.