WESLEY CHAPEL - Berlin Waters was a centerpiece on two of Wiregrass Ranch High's most successful teams.
Since transferring from Academy at the Lakes as a sophomore, Waters helped the girls soccer team win a pair of district championships while averaging 20 wins per year. She scored 73 goals in three seasons, second most all-time for the seventh-year program.
Waters joined the cross country squad as a junior and helped the Bulls win two Sunshine Athletic Conference titles and district championships along with a region crown in November.
Wiregrass Ranch athletic director Dave Wilson, who has been at the school since it opened, said Waters is one of, if not the best athletes to don a Bulls uniform.
"I can't think of anyone who I'd put over her," Wilson said. "If she isn't the best, she is one of the top female athletes who have come out of our school."
Waters wrote her name into the Bulls' history book one final time when she signed to play soccer and run cross country at Saint Leo University starting this fall, making her the first from Wiregrass Ranch to compete in two sports on scholarship in college.
This from someone who is only five-foot tall.
Waters said playing soccer with her two brothers toughened her up at a young age.
"Also, the fact that I'm shorter, that makes me feel like I have to prove a point," Waters said. "I have to make sure people don't try to just throw me down because I'm shorter than them."
Girls soccer coach Eddy Costa said he noticed Waters' mental strength after taking over the team last year.
"No matter what you ask of her, she goes 150 percent," Costa said. "I think that with Berlin, her speed and strength are more important than her size. The amazing thing about her is for her size she's not afraid to go up against someone 50 pounds heavier than her."
Cross country coach Don Howard said Waters' athleticism was exactly what the program needed when she joined as a junior. The Bulls had just graduated four of their top seven, including former No. 1 runner Ariel Grey.
"What I saw from her in that first practice was someone running with our front back with very little training under her belt," Howard said. "Some kids are just that kind of athlete. . I can honestly say that Berlin is perhaps the most talented athlete I've ever coached."
Waters ran at Academy as a freshman, but took a break from cross country as a sophomore while transitioning to a new school. She became the No. 2 runner in her final season, and Howard said her competitive nature pushed everyone to be their best.
"She's a girl who will not be passed near the finish line," Howard said. "I remember us running at Dover Trails in the first meet of the season her senior year. I was doing a count at the end, and we weren't going to win, which to me is losing. I yelled to Berlin, 'We don't lose. We need you to pass some people,' and she passed five girls in the last 100 meters to give us that victory."
Howard said another 20-hour stretch last November best describes Waters.
"The night before the state meet she has a regular season soccer game against Steinbrenner, their arch rival, so she has to be there," Howard said. "She plays a full soccer game and helps them win, arrives in Tallahassee for the meet after midnight, gets up the next morning and finishes top 25 in the state with her best time ever."
Waters completed the five-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 21 seconds to take 24th at the Class 3A state meet.
Playing two sports has given Waters twice the opportunity for victory, but it also requires double the effort: practice and persistence. She said the challenge of playing two sports in college while managing class will be a big challenge but is also excited for the opportunity.
"I'm preparing the best I can for what's coming," Waters said. "I just can't wait to be a part of both of these teams at Saint Leo."
Tribune correspondent Kyle LoJacono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Kyle_LoJacono.