Park City's Saarel honored as Utah's Runner of the Year

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Ben Saarel can run.

The Park City High School senior who won three straight 3A state individual championships during his time with the Miners was honored as Utah's boys' cross-country Runner of the Year Thursday morning by Gatorade and USA TODAY High School Sports.

According to a release from Gatorade, Saarel is the first Miner to ever be chosen for the Runner of the Year award in Utah. The release also states that the three-time state champion Saarel has verbally committed to the University of Colorado.

The 6-foot-2 senior finished fourth nationally at the Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships this season, with a time of 15:13. Saarel's 2012 state-winning time of 14:56.7 was 34 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher and was two seconds away from the all-time record set by former Judge Memorial star Luke Puskedra.

"Ben is an incredibly driven athlete," said Park City coach Jeff Wyant in the release. "He ran the fastest time ever by a Utah runner at Foot Locker, and I think he's destined for even bigger things. We haven't seen the best of him yet."

By winning the national honor, Saarel joins fellow Runners of the Year from the Beehive State Clayton Young (2011-12, 2010-11, American Fork High School), Austin West (2009-10, American Fork High School), Jonathan Nelson (2008-09, Timpview), and Puskedra (2007-08, Judge Memorial Catholic) as athletes who have won the cross-country award since its inception in 2007.

The release states that Saarel has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom during his time at Park City. It also states that he is a talented musician and has volunteered locally on behalf of the Park City Interact Club.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani