Friday, May 11, 2001

Engel family may have another state champ


Reading sophomore chases titles in 1,600, 3,200

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Listening to family members talk about winning a state championship has been entertaining for Courtney Engel. However, the Reading sophomore would like to be able to join the conversation.

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Courtney Engel
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        Engel, 16, hopes to join the family's list of winners on June 2, the day of the state track and field meet in Dayton.

        “My dad (Steve) pitched for Reading in 1980 when they won the state baseball championship,” Engel said. “My cousin, Dick (Engel), won the state wrestling championship in 1998. They talk about it a lot.”

        The way Engel (5-foot-2, 95 pounds) will break into the winner's circle is by claiming either the 1,600 or 800 meter state track championship in three weeks.

        The Cincinnati-area's best Division II distance runner, Engel has the fourth fastest time (all divisions) in the 1,600 meters (5:17.6) and is seventh best in the 3,200 (11:54.1). She has run the 800 in 2:24.0.

        Although Engel is optimistic, she failed to qualify for state last year.

        After winning the district title in 1,600 meters and finishing third in the 3,200, she slipped to seventh in the 1,600 and 12th in the 3,200 at the regional. Only the top four advance to state.

        “Our track is in such poor condition that I developed shin splints last year,” Engel said. “The doctor said it was a stress fracture and I ran in pain the final four weeks.”

        In order to avoid the same injury, Engel hasn't run on the Reading track, instead training at Madeira several times and on grass surfaces.

        Another factor in her success can be traced to the weight room where Engel has worked the past eight months strengthening her legs and improving upper body strength.

        “Courtney can now pull with her arms at the end of a race which she has never done before.” Reading coach Ronda Eisenhard said. “Next year I want her to swim during the winter which is also good conditioning.”

        Engel also runs cross country. She finished eighth at state as a freshman in 19:28.0 and took 10th this season despite running the 3.1 miles in a faster time of 19:03.

        “Because of my size my seventh grade gym teacher suggested that I try running rather than play volleyball,” Engel said.

        “That summer when I visited my grandfather (Clair Argento) in Wyoming, he also encouraged me to run. That's when I got serious about the sport.”

        Eisenhard looks for Engel to break the school records in the 800 (Connie Jo Robinson, 2:14.4 in 1982) and 3,200 (Jill Robinson, 11:15.9 in 1984) before graduating.

        “The nice thing about Courtney is that she's just about stopped growing,” Eisenhard said. “She has short strides but has good speed and passes a lot of runners.”

        Going into next week's district meet at Amelia, Engel is second in the state in the 1,600 with a time of 5:17.6.

        In the 3,200 meters, Engel has the eighth fastest time in the state at 11:03.4 and is 10th best in the 800 meters with a time of 2:24.9.

        “Courtney has a burning desire to win a state championship,” Eisenhard said. “Her best chance for a state championship is the 1,600 although she could also do it in the 800.”

        Unlike like most distance runners, Engel prefers running off the pace and sprinting from behind. But, this strategy has proved fatal in several races.

        “Courtney has made a lot of mistakes lately,” Eisenhard said. “She fell too far behind in the 3,200 at Amelia and finished second and was boxed during the 800 at Mariemont.”

        The times of the runners are often deceiving going into the final week of the regular season. Most will drop significantly as coaches attempt to have the athletes peaked for the state meet.

        Engel's chances appear outstanding but the diminutive sophomore will have to be at her best to pull it off.

       



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