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Engel sisters, Mullen making a state-ment for Irish

Catholic Central junior Addie Engel won the 3,200-meter championship at the Division III regional track and field meet Friday in Troy. Engel is one of three Irish athletes advancing to state along with twin sister Bridget and freshman high jumper Mallory Mullen. Greg Billing / Contributed
Catholic Central junior Addie Engel won the 3,200-meter championship at the Division III regional track and field meet Friday in Troy. Engel is one of three Irish athletes advancing to state along with twin sister Bridget and freshman high jumper Mallory Mullen. Greg Billing / Contributed

Mallory Mullen’s high jumping career started simple enough. During some down time at her seventh grade track practice, Mullen’s coaches noticed her leaping up and touching the crossbar on the football goal posts.

“The coaches told me I should high jump,” said Mullen, a freshman at Catholic Central High School.

Mullen has since become a rising star in the event. Her effort of 5-4 on Wednesday won the Division III regional championship at Troy High School and lifted her to the D-III state championships next week in Columbus.

It’s another in a growing list of accomplishments for the soft-spoken Mullen. This season Mullen – with a boost from jumps coach Mark Klopfenstein – established a school record of 5-07.25, breaking the 37-year old record of 5-6 set by Paula Earle in the 1980s. She set a meet and stadium record of 5-06.25 at the Wayne Invitational, topping a field of 64 other jumpers – many of them from D-I programs. She was also the Ohio Heritage Conference champion and district champion, setting a meet record there, too, in 5-05.5.

“At the beginning of the year I didn’t really know what (the school record was),” said Mullen, who went 5-6 in her first meet. “As I kept jumping and going higher I got curious what it was. … Everyone was telling me to go 5-6 and I was really excited when I got that.”

Multi-sport standouts Addie and Bridget Engel, junior twins on the team, also qualified for the state meet. For Addie it’s her third straight state track meet. She’s also competed at state in cross country and swimming all three seasons. Bridget makes her first state track appearance, and has qualified for state once in cross country and three times in swimming.

That’s 14 state tournament appearances between the Engel twins. That’s more appearances than the Irish have athletes on their team this season (10).

“They’re unbelievable, they really are. I’m lucky to get to coach them,” Catholic Central coach JP Derr said. “They’re two unbelievable kids. … When you go to state at least once a year for something, it’s crazy. It’s amazing to watch them. You get to see the work they put in every day.”

On Friday at the second day of the D-III regional championships, Addie won the 3,200-meter run in 11:04.22 for a 26-second victory over West Liberty-Salem freshman Megan Adams.

Addie was second in the 1,600 in 5:00.05, trailing Adams by 0.97 seconds.

Bridget finished fifth in the 1,600 in 5:17.86 and is expected to join her sister at state. The top four finishers in each event automatically qualify, with two at-large spots for the next fastest times among the four regionals. Bridget had the fastest time among non-automatic qualifiers and the OHSAA should make it official when state participants are announced Sunday afternoon.

“I just want to go in and see how I can do,” Bridget said of not feeling any pressure. “Go and have fun.”

The Engels were also on the 3,200-relay team with junior Lauren Stannard and senior Sidney Yontz that finished fifth in 9:51.20 on Wednesday. Their time should also qualify for a state at-large bid.

“It’s really exciting. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun having Bridget going this year,” said Addie, who finished fourth in both the 1,600 and 3,200 at state last season.

“I wasn’t expecting to make it cross country. And with track I wasn’t expecting that, either,” Bridget said of her qualifying runs. “Addie is a good bit better than me in running. She definitely pushes me.”

While Bridget is gaining ground in track, the two can’t get much closer as sisters. Bridget said they’re closer to each other than other twins they know.

Addie could be in the running for a state championship in both events. Derr said he’s seen a difference in the way she attacks races season. In addition to her performance on Friday, last week at district she set meet records winning both the 1,600 and 3,200.

“Addie is hungry for it. She’s been there two years,” Derr said. “Seeing what she’s doing a regional and these last few meets she’s just been getting better and better. She’s peaking at the right time. Same thing with Bridget. Everything we’ve asked her to do she’s pushed herself.”