SWIMMING: Engelkes will swim for Northern St. UniversityWORTHINGTON — Kari Engelkes couldn’t give swimming up — not yet, anyway.
WORTHINGTON — Kari Engelkes couldn’t give swimming up — not yet, anyway.
“I knew I was going to miss it too much,” she said. “I love the competition a lot. And I like to win.”
That’s something the recent Adrian graduate has done plenty of during her 12 years as a club swimmer for the Worthington Stingrays.
But now, after spending so much time swimming ahead of the group, she’ll most likely be playing catch-up — for a while, at least — and that’s fine with her.
Engelkes, the daughter of Rushmore’s Alan and Deanna Engelkes, recently signed a letter of intent to swim at Northern St. University in Aberdeen, S.D.
“It’s going to be an eye-opening experience,” Engelkes said. “It’s going to be really different. I’m probably not going to be winning right away, but eventually, I hope.”
The same times which placed Engelkes in the top five at the state YMCA meet would be middle-of-the-road marks in the Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, NSU’s league.
“It’ll just make me work harder, and hopefully it’ll make me faster,” Engelkes said.
She hasn’t stopped doing that since she became a Stingray.
Engelkes clocked personal bests of 26.27 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle and 59.2 in the 100 this year — races that she swam without ever even having a full week of practice.
That has her coaches pretty excited.
At NSU, she’ll be increasing from two or three practices to six or seven workouts per week as a full-time, Division II student-athlete.
“She’s going to be right there at the top once she gets those daily practices in,” Stingrays’ head coach Donna Damm said. “She never quit improving, which tells me there’s more to come.”
NSU head coach Elyce Kastigar agrees.
“Her time in the pool has been very limited, so she has some great potential for development,” Kastigar said. “Once she comes to the collegiate setting, she’s just going to blossom and have an opportunity to really see what her potential is in the sport.”
Kastigar said Engelkes has loads of untapped potential as a freestyle sprinter — an exact need for the up-and-coming swim program, which will begin its fourth year of competition this fall.
Despite boasting no juniors or seniors, the Wolves took seventh place at the nine-team RMAC swim meet last season.
Kastigar thinks NSU is primed to take another step (or stroke) forward next season, with all of her potential returning swimmers and a “strong recruiting class” that includes Engelkes.
After helping build a YMCA program that now boasts more than 40 swimmers, Engelkes is ready to do her part for the Wolves.
And by doing so, Damm thinks, perhaps she’ll set yet another example for her fellow Stingrays.
“I just feel that some of these kids and parents don’t realize that there is college swimming available,” Damm said. “It’s all football, basketball, volleyball. … It’s all pretty much those sports you see kids striving for.
“I think her move might kind of peak their interest.”
Engelkes hopes so.
“Swimming doesn’t get that much recognition,” she said. “It’s always the other sports you see (athletes) move on to for college. I hope this sparks something.”