Engelhardt A Quiet Leader For Sun Devils

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by Heather Jackson

In the midst of shaking off health issues in the past year and answering the call to leadership, Ben Engelhardt finished fifth overall to lead the Arizona State men's cross country squad to the team title at the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., on Sept. 17. Engelhardt also took 18th overall at the competitive Pre-NCAA Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., on Oct. 16.

Now a senior at ASU, Engelhardt has faced many hurdles throughout his academic and athletic career, both on and off the course.

Engelhardt was diagnosed with insomnia in October 2008, an illness that lasted until the last six weeks of the cross country season. Engelhardt said it brought on a sense of anxiety and depression that really took a toll on his athletic performance.

"It was the most bizarre feeling to have insomnia," Engelhardt said. "I feel that it held me back in regional and national meets."

In addition to fighting off insomnia, Englehardt was then diagnosed with shingles in March 2010.

Shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus that can reappear and become active again, compromising the immune system.

Because the only symptom that could be treated was the pain, Engelhardt had to allow the virus to run its course. He coped with his illness by taking solace in the fact that he would soon see better days.

"The only thing I took comfort in was that I knew this would not last forever and eventually I would regain balance in life," Engelhardt said.

Indeed, his better days would come when he stepped into the leadership position for the Sun Devils this season.

With all of the top talent and former All-Americans from last year's team, head coach Louie Quintana knew that a new leader would have to come soon and that Ben would fill that role.

"Coming into the season, it was unknown who was going to lead at meets," Quintana said. "Internally, I knew he would become the top guy. So I sat back and watched. Seeing him lead during practices, you could tell he would be the leader."

Quintana said he knows it is cliché to say Engelhardt was the first man in the gym and the first man to leave, but that is who Engelhardt really is.

After the Pre-NCAA Invitational, Quintana said Engelhardt went right up to him and asked, "What else do you need me to do?"

In addition to a strong work ethic, Quintana believes Engelhardt brings a sense of calm to the team.

"Engelhardt really is a quiet leader, he goes out and encourages others," Quintana said.

Engelhardt said his optimism and encouragement stems from the same optimism he receives from his coach. He said it really works for him so he wants to share it with his teammates.

Engelhardt has been running since he was 12 years old. He plans to go as far as he can in cross country by pursuing post-collegiate groups that train at a high level. If he doesn't make it that far, Engelhardt said he wants to take a break and work on a farm. He seeks something peaceful after a chaotic life in college.

Either way, Engelhardt is on to great things. His coach sees the talent and potential success.

"With his work ethic and talent, Ben is right there," said Quintana.

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