Amell, Heather

June 10, 2007, midnight | By Johanna Gretschel | 14 years ago

Name: Heather Amell
Department: Physical Education
Year Started: 2005
Classes Taught: Physical Education, Dance
Education: Port Allegany High School, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with degree in Athletic Training and P.E.
Previous Jobs: Albert Einstein High School Aerobics/Health teacher and track/cross-country coach, swimming instructor, aerobics instructor, waitress
Hobbies: running, track coach, volleyball coach, scrapbooking, scuba diving, horseback riding, sewing, reading, aerobics

Late January marks the end of the indoor track season. Most members have long since disappeared, whether from the onset of studying for exams or not qualifying for the regional meet. The remaining runners face the frosty track each day after school, and they are not alone. Their coach sprints alongside them, feeling the same shin splints and fatigue. She who dares to join her athletes in the dreary weather instead of comfortably standing by on the sidelines is Heather Amell.

Growing up in Port Allegany, a small Pennsylvania town with no real track coach, Amell was a standout athlete because of her self-motivation and discipline. She showed an unwavering dedication from a young age, particularly in her professed favorite sport, basketball. "I used to practice my form by shooting foul shots and three pointers," Amell says. "If I didn't make ten shots in a row, then I'd make myself run down the street and do push-ups. The neighbors thought I was crazy!"

Amell says she sees many athletes with her brand of raw talent who lack her self-motivation to condition themselves. "Talent and that kind of work ethic are key," she says.

In addition to playing basketball and running outdoor track, Amell also played volleyball in high school. Although she was offered Division II and III college scholarships for basketball, she found that track provided more opportunities.

Amell qualified for and placed in states every year during her high school track career, which helped her get a full track scholarship to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She received numerous track scholarship offers from more prestigious schools, including Ivy League universities, but ultimately decided on attending a school closer to home for personal reasons.

Amell has gone through countless setbacks throughout her running career, yet has managed to return stronger each time. As a high school junior, she broke both feet in a horseback riding accident in the middle of her outdoor track season. Amell cross trained by swimming and biking until her feet fully healed; she came back at the district meet and placed second in the 400 meter run. This astounding rebound shows Amell's determination to succeed, a quality necessary for success in athletics and one that she instills in the athletes she coaches and the physical education students she teaches.

One of Amell's greatest accomplishments on the track was placing first out of all college entrants and seventh overall in the 400 meter hurdles at Penn Relays her senior year of college in 1997. Penn Relays is a prestigious track and field meet hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and attended by over 15,000 participants from high schools and colleges all over the world.

After her spectacular finish, she began to receive letters about training in Colorado for the 2000 Olympics. But Amell decided not to pursue the Olympic dream after problems with her Achilles tendon prevented her from running well at the National meet. Although it may seem anticlimactic, Amell is satisfied with what she accomplished. "It's not a great ending," she admits. "I don't have a lot of regrets, though."

Amell's success on the track prepared her for the rest of her life, including her teaching career. As a physical education instructor, she imparts the values she learned through athletics onto her students. "Without sports," Amell says, "I would not be where I am today." Sports taught Amell that discipline and hard work are necessary ingredients for success and she asserts that the skills she received from participating in athletics prepared her to succeed in the future. "Kids don't really realize that until later," she says.

Johanna Gretschel. Johanna Gretschel is pretty much a BEAST at life. Her three most favorite things in the world are: food, hot 80's dance parties and running (probably in that order). She enjoys matching her ribbons with her spandex, and wishes that Madonna (circa 1985) and Gwen … More »

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