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Originally published: 2012-12-29 15:38:31
Last modified: 2012-12-29 15:38:31

Middlebrook commits to Michigan

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

One of the most decorated runners in Watauga’s varsity cross-country history will head north to continue her career.

Darby Middlebrook announced she will run at Michigan next year. Middlebrook is a four-sport athlete, having competed in cross-country, outdoor track and field, indoor track and field and swimming.
“It’s a big relief,” Middlebrook said. “It’s been really stressful, so I’m excited to be done with it.”

Committing early also had another perk for Middlebrook.

“I’m excited so now I can get the (Michigan) clothes,” she said.

Middlebrook was the state 4-A cross-country champion as a sophomore in 2010. She was the runner-up in 2011, but did not finish her championship bid her senior year after suffering a broken leg during the 4-A Western Regional in Charlotte.

“They’re going to get a very hardworking runner,” Watauga cross-country and track coach Randy McDonough said. “Their coach likes to start with the 800-meter runners and branch off from there to either longer or shorter distances. They’ll find Darby’s a versatile runner who can go from running the quarter mile to the 10,000.”

McDonough said Middlebrook’s strength is in the middle distances. Middlebrook set a state record last season when she won the indoor state 1,600-meter run in the state meet with a time of 5:01.

“She has the speed to do something in the 1,500,” McDonough said. “I don’t know if she is a steeple chaser, but she can run the 1,5000 as well as the 800 and the 5,000.”
Middlebrook was not sure what she would run, but prefers the mile in track and the 5K in cross-country.

“I’ll probably be distance running in the 5K or maybe the 1,500,” she said. “I’m not sure what I will do yet.”

Middlebrook had her breakout race during her sophomore season when she won the High Country Classic. She beat Ardrey Kell standout Katelin Kramer, who was heavily favored to win the event. Kramer is on the North Carolina State cross-country team.

“The next week, she went to the Wendy’s Invitational and dropped 25 seconds off her time and just continued on from there,” McDonough said.

Middlebrook went on to win the state 4-A championship that season.

McDonough said Middlebrook also received interest from Wisconsin and North Carolina State, but has family ties to Michigan. Her sister, Hailey, is a walk-on with the Wolverines.

Hailey Middlebrook won the Hall of Fame Award, which is given to the top Watauga female athlete, in 2012. Darby Middlebrook said that she is carrying on a family tradition by attending Michigan.

“My dad is from Michigan,” she said. “In my sophomore year, we went on a college road trip and I kind of liked Michigan. We visited there and talked to the coach and over the years, I got to know him.”

Middlebrook, who is a likely candidate to win the Hall of Fame award this season, is still rehabilitating her leg. She is a member of the Watauga swimming team, which she said has helped keep her in condition for outside track and field.

The injury forced her to miss the indoor season, but after spending six weeks on crutches, she’s also biking to stay in shape.

“I had to do something or else I’d go crazy,” she said. “I’m hoping it conditions me well.”