Vail Valley’s Engle making waves at Fresno State
Vail, CO Colorado
FRESNO, Calif. ” Seldom do you hear of an athlete from the Vail Valley pursue a sport in college other than skiing, snowboarding, hockey, volleyball, or soccer.
Cindy Engle, who graduated Battle Mountain in 2007 and is now a sophomore at Fresno State University, has blossomed into a star swimmer, becoming an exception to the rule.
The story of how Engle came to swim in college is just as inspiring as how she is performing while at Fresno State. While growing up in Ohio, Engle joined youth swimming programs similar to those throughout Eagle County.
At first, Engle did not want to join the swim team and was essentially forced onto it by her parents, but later grew to enjoy it.
“I never saw myself swimming in college,” she said. “I saw myself cheerleading if anything.”
Athletics runs in the family. Cindy’s father, Pat, played football in high school and college and has coached, including a four-year-stint Battle Mountain, and still associated with the program. Cindy’s younger siblings also compete for the Huskies.
Pat spoke of Cindy, describing her as being determined, proud, and possessing a “strong mental attitude.”
Whether it was crawling around her father’s football practices as a baby or on the sideline of a Battle Mountain football or basketball game as a part of the Battle Mountain cheerleading and dance teams Cindy was constantly around sports. Her father attributes her strong athletic mindset and competitive spirit to absorbing concepts such as never giving up or fighting until the end by merely being around sports.
“In high school I never missed a single football game, and during the summer, I was on the field with my dad at two-a-days giving out water or something,” Cindy said. “That is how involved in sports I was.”
After her family moved to the Vail Valley, she continued her development by swimming for the Avon Dolphins Swim Team. As she grew older and opportunities for her to swim continued to fade, Engle was forced to look elsewhere to swim. Her sight fell to the closest high school that offered swimming as a varsity sport, Summit County.
Cindy swam only one year, her sophomore year, at Summit, earning a varsity letter. The following years she stopped because the drive to the pool was too distant.
Not the end
This may have seemed like the end of her swimming career, but Engle had always wanted to compete in athletics in college and noticed that Fresno State was starting a varsity swimming program the year she entered college.
“It was a rare opportunity for me to swim” said Engle of the possibility of swimming at Fresno St. “I was excited, nervous, just a mix of emotions. But we all did. None of us expected to swim in college.”
One might think that Engle’s one year of varsity swimming experience would never give her the skills to swim at a Division I swimming school especially because she had swam only as a sophomore. Lured to the team by a motivating coach, Jeanne Fleck, Engle joined the team.
“Cindy first contacted me when we were starting the team from scratch,” Fleck said. “I liked her personality and how persistent she was. There was a lot of work to be done when she got in the pool, but she did it all with a great attitude.”
Once on the team Cindy grew into an incredible swimmer and a strong addition to the team. Her strongest performance came in late February when she placed 24th in the 100-meter butterfly prelims in San Antonio setting a personal record of 1 minute, 01.24 seconds.
The team is a very important to Cindy as it is like her “new family” out in California and because even though it is an individual sport they all push and encourage each other to do better for the sake of improving times.
Lots of laps
Engle, who is studying kinesiology, says finding a balance between school and swimming is difficult especially because she is swimming before and after classes swimming an average of about 10,000 meters per day; the equivalent of about 6 miles per day. She says the best way for her to be focused in both school and swimming is to relate her studies of sports science and motion to her swimming.
While her father has set a lofty, but attainable, goal of winning either a national or team title in the next two or three years, Engle would like to improve times in her main races, the 100 and 200 butterfly.
As for life after college Engle would enjoy swimming but is skeptical whether or not she will be able to continue swimming at such a high level as she realizes that the competition is incredibly talented. When asked if he could see his daughter swimming past a college level, Pat responded by saying that he could never have imagined his daughter swimming at a Division I school on a small scholarship, but “with Cindy, nothing would surprise me.”
To all aspiring college athletes out there Cindy had a word of wisdom: “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. I am a true testament of anything being possible.”