Cross country gears up for Rich Engel

By Anna Twito 2005

The roar of the crowd, the sea of colors, having a home course advantage, running to the rhythm of the drums, seeing friends and family … this is what the Rich Engel Classic is all about.

The CFHS men’s and women’s cross country teams will face tough competition Thursday, Sept. 19, starting at 4:45 p.m. at their home course, Birdsall Park.

Formally know as the Tiger Invitational, last year it was renamed the honor Rich Engel, a former cross country coach for 16 years and driver’s ed teacher at Cedar Falls High School. “Coach Engel was not only a good friend, but a strong role model for kids. He was the men’s coach when the team gained popularity,” women’s cross country coach Bob Schmidt said.

When talking about the Tiger Invitational being renamed, Dianne Engel, a CFHS business teacher and widow of Rich, said, “I was a real tribute to Rich’s contribution to the cross county team at Cedar Falls High School.”

The women, ranked 6th in the state, and the men, ranked 5th, will both look to face some of the toughest competition in the state on Thursday such as Dubuque Wahlert and Ankeny.

Wahlert’s women’s cross country coach, Cynthia Wagner, said about the Cedar Falls women’s team, “Traditionally, they’ve been a very strong team.” She also said, “We have been training since August. Some girls have been running through the summer and studying the map of the course.”

Regarding the Cedar Falls women’s preparations, Schmidt said, “I like to see us keep improving. I don’t think winning the district and placing at state is out of the picture.”

Adding his insights about the team he leads, the men’s coach, Troy Becker, said, “I’m happy with our progress. Our times are dropping, and I think we have a chance to get in the top 10 at State.”

Becker also said, “We have tremendous team chemistry, great team leadership and they’re a hard working group.”

Senior David Lantz, one of the team’s hard workers, said, “It’s an awesome feeling to have so many fans from Cedar Falls there. It’s exhilarating. I’m looking forward to being put up against a lot of tough competition and performing well.”

Cross country is definitely no sport for the weak of heart. Everyone who runs in the sports knows that it’s very challenging both mentally and physically.

To get through the pain threshold, junior Kenny Rutzmoser said, “I think about our hard workouts, and, remembering those, I know I can get through the race.”

There are a lot of things with the home meet that people are anticipating. “I’m looking forward to having people from our school there,” senior Daniel Kenealy said.

“I’m looking forward to the week of it, because we do a lot of stuff and also the crowds because they give us so much support,” senior Emily Swarbrick said.

Rutzmoser said, “I’m looking forward to hopefully running in the seventeens because I’m going to be 17 (years old) on that day.”

There are a lot of things to be excited about the Rich Engel Classic because it’s such an incredible event. Coach Becker put it well when he said, “If you’ve never seen a cross country meet before, you need to come experience one and see what it’s all about.”

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