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Engel did everything

Published 12:13 am Sunday, May 25, 2014

Versatile St. Al star shined in 1A

In her best event, the long jump, Alyssa Engel often jumped until she set a mark she knew was good enough to win, and then skipped her last few attempts.

It was a move that could come across as cocky — the track and field equivalent of pausing to watch a 500-foot home run sail over the fence.
It was also strategic. After all, at any given meet Engel had a lot to do.
Engel reached the Class 1A state meet in the long jump, triple jump, 200 meters and 4×400 meter relay. She finished second in the long jump, which she won in 2013, and fourth in each of the other events.
The junior’s success and versatility made her one of the best all-around athletes in Class 1A, and the girls Athlete of the Year on the inaugural Vicksburg Post All-County Track and Field Team.
“I feel honored,” Engel said of the award. “Last year I got to State in two events. I feel well-rounded. I like the fact that I can sprint and do middle distance and jump. I feel like I contribute a lot to the team.”
Engel, a junior, won the Class 1A championship in the long jump and finished fifth in the 200 meters in 2013, then added to her reportoire this season.
When the Lady Flashes needed to fill a hole on the 4×400 meter relay, she was there. When there was a need for a triple jumper, Engel was their girl.
“She’s one of the three captains of our team,” St. Al coach Keiko Booth said. “Not only is she a physical leader, she’s also one of my mental leaders.”
Long jump is Engel’s best and favorite event, but competing multiple times at each meet often means she has to cut it short.
“That’s a big part of it, to keep from getting too tired so I can put in everything I can in each event,” Engel said.
One of Engel’s least favorite events is the 200 meters. She said nerves often get to her until the race starts.
“I get so nervous before the sprints,” she said with a laugh. “My heart rate goes up and I get nervous. Once I run I get better, but my nerves are high until I hear that gun shot.”
Engel very nearly took home an armful of medals at the state meet, but had to settle for just one silver.
Despite setting a personal record in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 9 inches, John F. Kennedy’s Latina Jones beat her with a jump of 18-3 — a foot farther than Jones had jumped the previous week at the Class 1A North State meet.
Engel later was edged out by .02 seconds for a bronze medal in the 200 meters, was fourth by a foot in the triple jump, and her relay team was two seconds behind Tupelo Christian Prep for a third-place finish.
Engel has one more year to win another state championship, then plans to try the college ranks. She knows she has a bit of work to do to compete at that level, however.
Engel wants to attend either the University of Florida or Florida State. As a former resident of the Sunshine State, she’d be able to draw some scholarship money for attending college there. Both schools, however, are compete in NCAA Division I and have high standards for track athletes. The minimum distance for women long jumpers to earn a scholarship is 18 feet, 6 inches. Most are over 19 feet.
Engel’s best mark so far is 17-6.
“If I happen to be able to walk on there, that’d be great. I can work on that in the next year,” Engel said.