The 15-year-old wunderkind targeted a state championship.
“That was one of my biggest goals going into the season,” Sadie Engelhardt said. “To win something at state. … To do it as a freshman is pretty great.”
So how did the Ventura High freshman celebrate her rousing triumph in a historically fast 1,600 meters showdown against elite seniors Dalia Frias and Sam McDonnell at the CIF State championships in Clovis?
More running, of course. A lot more.
As a capstone to her incredibly successful freshman season, Engelhardt plotted a course this month to the Pacific Northwest, essentially scheduling three distance runs in a week’s time against elite competition.
First, she broke the California state record in the 1,500 meters by running 4:11.79 at the Portland Track Festival on June 11.
“That 1,500 was a highlight for sure,” Engelhardt said. “Not only was it a fast time, but I was feeling good.”
Then she ran a personal best in the mile in 4:36.50 at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle on June 15.
Four days later, she won a national championship at Hayward Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, running away from the field in the 1,600 meters at Nike Outdoor Nationals.
The margin of her victory was nearly nine full seconds.
“It’s kind of hard to let it like settle in,” Engelhardt said. “I can’t quite grasp it. I run for fun. … It’s crazy to think I’m a national champion.”
The trip did allow time for some fun. The Engelhardt family rented bikes for a tour of Eugene. In Seattle, there was a boat party on Lake Washington.
But really, Engelhardt’s reward for her big performances were more big meets, occasions in which she revels.
“She really loves those big meets,” Engelhardt’s mother, Shannon, said. “They’re super fun. And she’s making a lot of friends in the running community.”
And the running community is taking notice of Engelhardt, who attracted some attention when she went for a slice at Track Town Pizza in Eugene.
“It’s pretty crowded in there and heads turned,” said Engelhardt’s father, Max.
And why shouldn’t they, considering the season the freshman just completed?
After arriving Ventura High riding the hype of having broken Mary Decker’s 14-year-old age group world record in the mile — which had stood since 1973 — Engelhardt somehow lived up to the hype and surpassed it by setting state, national and world records.
She set national freshman records in the 1,500 (4:11.79 at the Portland Track Festival), mile (4:35.16 at Arcadia) and 3,200 (9:50.79 at the Ventura County Championships).
The mile time at Arcadia set the 15-year-old age group world record.
After winning the state title in the 1,600, Engelhardt nearly became the first runner to double in the girls 1,600 and 800 since 1975, but she settled for second in the 800 by a margin of less than a second.
She pulled off the double at the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 finals, winning the 1,600 in 4:43.93 and the 800 in 2:08.26.
Engelhardt also helped the Ventura High 4x400-meter relay team qualify for the CIF-SS Masters meet and the CIF State meet by running the anchor leg.
She attributes the consistent success of the season to the maturation of her training regimen.
“During cross country, I felt like I was going through the motions of training, not pushing myself a whole lot,” Engelhardt said. “This year, I got better at that. I found where my limits were. I learned how to train effectively. With every race I feel like I’ve learned a little bit more. … I kind of learned what I should do next time and applied that.”
Ventura High coach Tyree Cruz put together a team that included his mentor, Bill Tokar, and alum Kyle Medina, to develop and implement Engelhardt’s training plan.
“I was getting advice from a lot of people,” Cruz said. “We were bouncing around a lot of ideas.
But the top priory from Cruz’s perspective was Engelhardt’s personal experience, rather than results.
“My ultimate goal for her was that she gets to be a 15-year-old on a high school track team,” Cruz said. “She just happens to be phenomenally good.
“She has time and time and time (to run). But she only gets to be in high school once.”
The offseason finally arrived for Engelhardt this week, who will shut herself down for about two weeks to rest up for her sophomore cross country season this fall.
“I think I’m going to take four or five days off completely,” Engelhardt said, “before I start start doing some shakeouts and some not-too-hard runs for the next two weeks.”
Considering the epic nature of her debut season, the sequel should be something.
THE STAR'S ALL-COUNTY GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD SECOND TEAM
100 – Brooklyn Kennedy, Calabasas
200 – Shelby Richmond, Thousand Oaks
400 – Lahela Ray, Calabasas
800 – Elyse Grant, Oaks Christian
1,600 – Georgia McCorkle, Agoura
3,200 – Ailish Hawkins, Newbury Park
100 hurdles – Savannah Starling, Agoura
300 hurdles – Eleanor Borchard, Oaks Christian
Shot put – Ava Crouse, Camarillo
Discus – Aaliyah Espinoza, Oxnard
High jump – Valentina Fakrogha, Ventura
Long jump – Savannah Sprinkle, Buena
Triple jump – Johanna Cummings, Westlake
Pole vault – Claire Goyette, Thousand Oaks
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Engelhardt is The Star's Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year