Prengaman became the first girls track athlete in Wildcats history to win a state title.
BY KYLE LOJACONO Tribune correspondent
Published: July 16, 2013
Updated: July 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM
WESLEY CHAPEL - Courtney Prengaman looks like the prototypical high jumper.
The slender, 6-foot-2, 2013 Welsey Chapel High graduate attacks the bar with the grace, power and speed required to clear any height presented.
Because of that, she earned three district titles, two state medals, including the 2011 Class 2A championship, and a scholarship with Samford University, a Division I program in Birmingham, Ala.
Simply put: Prengaman is a natural, but was anything but the first time she attempted the event while at Weightman Middle.
"I was terrified," Prengaman said. "I was really nervous and wasn't sure of myself at all."
In fact, Prengaman was so frightened during her first meet that she removed herself from the competition after not jumping on several attempts.
"It's just a plastic bar, and I've only fallen on it like three times and really I was more scared of embarrassing myself than being afraid of hurting myself," Prengaman said. "No one wants to be really bad at something, and I thought it was something I was never going to be good at."
Prengaman tied the Wildcats program record by clearing 5-feet, 2 inches as a freshman, but was unable to improve on that height her sophomore season.
Brad Allen saw Prengaman's struggles that season as Wesley Chapel's assistant and decided to work with the future state champion when he took over as coach the following year.
"There was just something about her that told me she could do a lot more," Allen said. "She got to five-two as a freshman, and I thought there's no reason why she couldn't be doing more. I also knew no one had been working with her."
Allen had no previous experience coaching high jump, so he bought books and DVDs on the event and also looked for any tips on the Internet. Prengaman broke the school record four times during her junior year, a season that ended with her winning the 2A crown by clearing five feet, six inches to become the first state champion in the program's 14-year history.
"He was a total game changer for me," Prengaman said. "He's been more than a coach. I know when I do well or when things aren't going well at Samford, I'll be able to call him and he'll be able to help. It's really cool to have had a coach who was so important to me and my family. We're very grateful for him."
Prengaman broke the school record one more time as a senior when she cleared five feet, eight inches, but her final high school campaign was marked with frustration.
She didn't win a district title for the first time in her career and jumped 5-2 in the two meets leading up to states. Prengaman rebounded with a 5-6 finish as the state runner-up and said the late difficulties helped make her stronger going into college.
"The biggest thing for me is being confident in myself," Prengaman said. "I had a rough time senior year. I lost confidence with the problems I had, but I think I learned a lot about how to get through those things."
Allen has high expectations for her at the next level.
"She told me the girl they had who is graduating won a championship at five-eight or five-ten," Allen said. "That girl was a senior in college, and Courtney is going in jumping that. There is no reason why she shouldn't be over six-feet by the time she is done with college."
Tribune correspondent Kyle LoJacono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Kyle_LoJacono.