Pine-Richland’s Rottinghaus sprinting to success in 400, relays

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Saturday, April 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Pine-Richland track and field coaches had a premonition that senior Ella Rottinghaus was going to set a new school record in the 400-meter run prior to the Rams’ April 14 meet with Seneca Valley, but she didn’t share the same belief.

After all it was her debut in the event for the season.

“Coach (Don Thomas), Coach (Mark) Hunkele and the rest of the coaches said it was a nice day with really good weather and they kept telling me I was going to break it,” Rottinghaus said. “I hadn’t run the 400 in two or three years, so I wasn’t as confident.”

The prediction turned out to be true.

Not only did Rottinghaus set a new Pine-Richland record in the 400 with a time of 58.05 seconds, she broke the old mark by more than a second. The previous record was 59.17 set by Kylie Manuppelli in 2016.

“Afterwards they were all like ‘See I told you so.’ … They were right,” Rottinghaus said.

It was a picture perfect start to what Rottinghaus hopes is a memorable year not only in individual events, but as the anchor of the 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

“Before the race I really just wanted to get under a minute,” Rottinghaus said. “I was racing against a very good runner from Seneca Valley and that helped, because I like to be pushed and have someone to run with. I like the competitiveness that brings. I was really shocked that I did it, but at the same time I was really excited.”

Rottinghaus’ main sport is field hockey, and she will continue playing in college at Boston University where she’ll join her older sister, Molly. Track started as a social activity and a way to stay in shape for field hockey, but has evolved into another outlet for her competitive fire.

“I do field hockey and CrossFit year round, and that’s helped me gain a lot of leg strength,” Rottinghaus said. “I think this year I realized the difference that’s made and how that can help me be competitive in track. I never felt that way before. My coaches have really pushed me in the right direction to become successful.”

In 2019, Rottinghaus was a part of a 1,600 relay team that broke the school record and qualified for states. She’s the lone returner from that team and is now paired with a strong group of distance runners.

Meredith Price, Audrey DeKunder, Elizabeth Hunkele, Angelina Hunkele and Natalie McLean all recently competed at the Addidas Indoor National Championship and a combination of them will be joining Rottinghaus in the 1,600 relay.

“My favorite race is the 4-by-400, because I love being on a team compared to doing individual events,” Rottinghaus said. “This year it’s a different group of girls with me that are distance runners compared to two years ago when it was mostly sprinters. It’s different this year, but I love it. It’s a great group of girls. They’re always training and it’s a lot of fun to work with them.”

Naturally with her love of team events, Rottinghaus has her goals set toward lowering times in the relays prior to WPIALs.

“I hope I can get an individual medal at WPIALs, but the most important thing to me is getting our relay teams to states,” Rottinghaus said. “I definitely think we can do it.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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