Tamaqua's Carroll is off and running
Joe Plasko/TIMES NEWS Tamaqua junior Amber Carroll is already out of the gates and running well, if the results from two preseason races this month are any indication.
Amber Carroll is a soft-spoken individual who is modest about her goals and accomplishments.
What the Tamaqua Area High School junior has already achieved as a distance runner speaks volumes.
As a freshman, Carroll won the Schuylkill League Cross Country Championship at Tuscarora State Park, finished as District 11 Class AA runner-up at Lehigh University and placed 18th at the PIAA State Meet on Hershey's Parkview course.
Carroll started her sophomore season with high expectations and fulfilled them for the most part, with the exception of a snag at the Schuylkill All-League Meet.
At leagues, Carroll was way ahead of the field on Blue Mountain High School's course when she collapsed with about 800 meters to go and never finished the race.
Carroll rebounded from that experience by placing sixth at the District 11 Class AA Meet on the Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course, then finishing 12th at the State Championships back at Hershey.
She followed that up with a strong track and field campaign this past spring, placing seventh in the Class AA 3,200 meters at the PIAA Championships at Shippensburg University and setting a new school and all-time TIMES NEWS area record of 11:03.59. She also placed 11th in the 1,600 meters with a time of 5:18.12.
Carroll didn't rest on her laurels over the summer. She ran between 40-60 miles per week in preparation for her junior season.
She is already out of the gates and running well, if the results from two preseason races this month are any indication.
At the Run For The Eagles 5K at Blue Mountain, Carroll won the overall female title with a time of 20 minutes, 39 seconds.
At Saturday's Truskey Memorial 5K Run at Tuscarora State Park, which will be the site of this year's Schuylkill All-League Meet after a one-year absence, Carroll broke the 20 minute mark, crossing the finish line at 19:45.
"I felt pretty good," said Carroll following the Truskey Run, which has a first mile that is an uphill trail. "At the top of the hill, your legs can feel heavy. I just went out and tried to do my best."
"The junior year is the year to shine, and Amber is definitely a more mature runner," said Tamaqua Coach Tom Kanger. "At the Run For the Eagles, she was a minute under what she ran there last year, so she's in shape, too."
In addition to racking up the mileage this summer, Carroll has been doing some cross training as well.
"I do martial arts with Jon Bonner," related Carroll, who has her brown belt and is working towards her back belt. "I also go mountain biking with my dad on weekends."
Tamaqua has the bulk of its girls cross country squad returning this year, with Carroll once again leading the pack. The return of senior Schuyler Schmidt, who was the Schuylkill League champion as a freshman in 2007 but was not out for the team last year, has been a plus for Carroll, noted Kanger.
"Schuyler Schmidt will help her through a lot of runs, because she's there pushing Amber," he related. "That allows Amber to concentrate on running. They've had some good practices together. They've got the training part down."
"Schuyler pushes me when we run together," concurred Carroll. "Without her I can't really push as fast at practice."
Carroll is pushing herself into select company among Tamaqua harriers.
If she can earn Top 25 medals at States this year and as a senior, she would join Alexa Griffiths, now a senior at Bucknell University, as the only Lady Raiders to accomplish that feat. Griffiths placed between 13th and 23rd in her State races in 2003-2006.
The highest finish by a Tamaqua girl at States was by Liz Manness, who finished sixth at Lehigh University in 1999 with a time of 18:59.3.
"I want to try to get in the Top 10 at States, break 19 minutes and run my personal best out there (which is currently the 19:49 she ran last year)," mentioned Carroll. "I feel pretty good right now, so we will see how it goes."
Five underclassmen finished ahead of Carroll at States last year, topped by Alyssa Brandis of Central Cambria, a freshman who placed fourth.
As she has done throughout her career, Carroll will let her results speak for themselves this season.