“As a freshman, I tried out [for] a lot of sports, like softball, basketball, and tennis,” she said. “All the coaches wanted me because I was fast, so I figured I’d just go out for the sport that actually involved running.”
That was her starting point from becoming runner for Excel and then, the past two years, at Cartersville High, where she became the top girl runner by the middle of the season.
On Friday, she signed with Young Harris College, where she will receive an academic and cross country athletic scholarship with the Mountain Lions, who compete in NCAA Division II.
David Matherne, her coach at Cartersville, said it should be a good pairing.
He said Brunzelle could run only for Cartersville’s JV (junior varsity) her first year because of the transfer rule, then started her senior year injured but kept improving her times and became the program’s top girl runner by mid-season.
“We would not have been the same team without her,” Matherne said. “She definitely was an anchor to our team. She consistently ran very quick times and will be a tremendous asset at Young Harris. She got a significant scholarship there, and that shows [their] coach has a lot of confidence in her.”
Matherne said she also is a serious student academically. “Dorie goes the extra mile in the classroom, too, pun intended.”
Brunzelle said running has been a good fit. “I like thinking when I run. I like the atmosphere it creates. Everyone’s usually very nice. It’s competitive to an extent, but it’s not like overly competitive, and people don’t hate one another and such.”
She noted it’s an individual sport. “You don’t have to rely on teammates. You just have to do your best.”
The runner’s affection for the sport grew. “In my sophomore year, I trained with Woodland over the summer and that’s when I really started to like the sport. I started taking it more seriously. Then when I got here (at Cartersville) coach Matherne helped me improve my time a lot.”
She said she was a runner at Excel two years and moved to the Purple Hurricanes her final two years in high school.
At Cartersville, she said, she fit in quickly. “The team is really welcoming. They accept anybody, any kind of background, any kind of personality. It’s like a big family. We all went through the same stuff.”
She credits some of that “stuff” with trimming her running times.
Cartersville’s Matherne helped her chisel about four minutes off her time for the 5K, going from around 25 minutes to just over 21 minutes. Her best time during a race was 21.27, which she turned in at the regionals this season.
Matherne said that took a lot of work on Brunzelle’s part. “We did a lot of things that probably contributed to that. She’s like a gem. You just have to polish that stone and bring it out. She’s a talent. She’s not afraid of running the long miles.”
He said her transfer to Cartersville worked out well. “What a great thing that was for Cartersville High School. She became our No. 1 runner this year. This was the year she really deserved. All the success she had, she deserved. She was great in track as well.”
He expects similar success at Young Harris.
“I think with her new team she’ll fit in well. I think what will happen is she will continue to hone those skills. If she develops a ferocious kick, then she will have everything needed to be an outstanding collegiate runner. She has the endurance. She has the stamina. She has the strength. She has the desire. That missing link is that speed. A lot of races come down to the kick.
“I can see her getting under 20 [minutes] within a year or two at Young Harris. She’ll be given more mileage, and she’ll be around other girls who take it as seriously as she does. That can only benefit her.”
He added her impact should be immediate. “She has a chance to be a scoring varsity member because the top 5 score in varsity for the team.”
The coach said the runner understands it’s not just running and staying in shape during the season that contributes to success. “She’s always willing to do more, keeping herself fit year-round, doing cross training. She is one of the most toned athletes we’ve had. She really pays attention to her diet and to her strength training. A lot of the great runners we’ve had before didn’t hit on all cylinders like that.”
Brunzelle said she will major in biology at Young Harris. “I want to go into physical therapy. I’ve gotten injured from sports often, and I’ve been in physical therapy quite a few times. I really like it. It interests me.”