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Jun. 22—Last summer, when the 2020-21 high school sports season was in doubt, Darren Brunner was determined.

He told his parents, Steve and Kristie, he’d do whatever it took to play football, basketball and baseball during his senior year for Wyomissing, even during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. It was no different than what he had done most of his life as he juggled the demands of playing three sports and his studies.

“As long as he got the chance to play, he did not care what he had to do,” Kristie Brunner said. ” ‘So we have to do this? We’re going to do it.’ For my child to play basketball with a mask on could not have made me prouder.

“He constantly found ways to make it work every single day. He’s been doing that for a long time. He invested himself into every sport with his workouts, his diet and his time.”

After leading Wyomissing to historic seasons in all three sports, Brunner has been named one of five finalists for the Reading Eagle’s annual male Athlete of the Year award, which will be announced June 28.

In football, he was a first-team All-State linebacker and received All-State honorable mention as a receiver, helping the Spartans win the District 3 Class 3A title and reach the PIAA championship game.

In basketball, he was an all-division pick and the leading scorer on a Wyomissing team that won a district playoff game for the first time in nine years.

In baseball, he was an all-division selection on a team that reached a district final and the PIAA Tournament for the first time since 1993.

Brunner served as team captain in all three sports, which underscored how his teammates and coaches admired him.

“I don’t want to sound trite, but he has that ‘it’ factor when it comes to leadership,” Spartans baseball coach Dave Voigt said. “He has a really good combination of charisma, work ethic and people skills that allows him to lead and make people want to follow.

“Not only is he very talented, but he leads by example. He talks when he has to talk. He just sets the tone and people better get on board.”

Bob Wolfrum, the longtime Wyomissing football coach, noticed that Brunner had the same traits as his father, who played for the Spartans when Wolfrum was an assistant coach in the mid-1980s. Like his father, Brunner was ultra-competitive and set an example.

“Darren was a captain as a senior, but he really was a leader all the way through,” Wolfrum said. “I think the kids realized that he did things the right way and he knew what he was doing. He also cared about everybody and was willing to help everybody.

“He was in a really good class of kids who were all like that. They fed off each other. They made each other better.”

Brunner, however, was the only one of them who played football, basketball and baseball. He would have pulled off the rare feat of playing in states in three sports if the PIAA hadn’t limited the basketball playoffs to district champions.

He will enroll at Ithaca College later this summer and play football there, but he never considered concentrating on one sport.

“Growing up, I really didn’t have a favorite sport,” he said. “Whatever season it was, that was my favorite sport. I’ve always been a three-sport athlete and I’ve always been active like that. I really couldn’t set my mind to doing one sport all year.

“Playing three sports helped me make a whole bunch of friendships through the years. I was with different people throughout the whole year rather than just being a football guy.”

Brunner never had an offseason in high school, except when the 2020 baseball season was canceled because of the pandemic. On many summer days over the last few years, he’d attend a football workout in the morning, take batting practice in the afternoon and join the basketball team for a summer league game at night.

“To play three sports, still show up for summer league games and get to open gyms is not easy to do,” basketball coach Ryan Ludwig said. “It’s a huge time commitment. When you do things like that, you earn a lot of respect from your teammates.

“He conducted himself the right way and also had fun. He has a really great personality to be a leader.”

Brunner still found time to serve as treasurer of Wyomissing’s Class of 2021 and vice president of the Latin Club. He mentored younger athletes in the Big Spartan/Little Spartan program and volunteered with Voice Up, a county organization focused on meeting community needs by engaging people in collaborative community opportunities.

In addition, he was a member of the National Honor Society and received the President’s Award for earning a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or greater on a 4.0 scale.

“He is a true leader both on and off the field,” said Bridget Mayberry, Wyomissing’s guidance counselor. “He is respected because he is genuine, kind, compassionate and intrinsically motivated to always give his best.”

In football, Brunner led the Spartans in tackles, receptions and receiving yards. In basketball, he led the team in 3-pointers. In baseball, he led the team in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins.

“Football is his first love, for sure,” Voigt said, “but he put so much time into his ‘secondary’ sports, basketball and baseball. Doesn’t it say something about a kid who plays three sports, is voted captain in all three and puts his heart and soul on the line for each team?

“This was after he committed to Ithaca. He could have given a half-hearted effort, but he didn’t. He was all in.”

Brunner and his football teammates continued the program’s excellence, winning back-to-back District 3 titles for only the second time in school history. He and his teammates in basketball and baseball did things the Spartans hadn’t done in years.

“Before football season, I was not really expecting to even play,” Brunner said. “To be successful in all three was great. To know our group did so much to change the culture in basketball and baseball means a lot.”