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It Runs in the Family

For the Tufts track and field trio of Engelking siblings, being a Jumbo is in the genes.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.05.08] Tufts senior Derek Engelking was walking across campus earlier this year when he came across his sister Kelly. He knew that she was in her first year at Tufts, but seeing her on campus for the first time took him by surprise. She had always just been his little sister at home in Westborough, Massachusetts.

"I kind of did a double-take, and thought to myself, 'When did she get this old'?" Derek said.

In fact, Tufts is just like home to the Engelkings. Brother Jared is a sophomore at the University as well. All three siblings are members of the Tufts track & field teams. Each scored points to help both Jumbo teams place second at the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championships last Saturday (Apr. 26) at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. They are the only trio of siblings on the Tufts campus.

Tufts has been in the Engelking family for almost 30 years. Larry Engelking, father of the children, is a Tufts professor who has taught physiology in the medical and veterinary schools for 28 years. The family lived close to the veterinary school in Grafton while the kids were growing up. As a teenager, Derek was involved in a number of school projects at the vet school. He attended some of his father's medical and veterinary lectures and occasionally watched the Tufts cross country teams compete on their course at the Grafton campus.

"Most kids growing up have a wish-list of where they would like to go to school," Derek said. "My wish-list consisted of Tufts. It's a great institution with a lot to offer, and ever since I was a kid I knew it was where I wanted to go."

Like many student-athletes at Tufts, the Engelkings were attracted by the combination of world-class academics and a competitive small-college athletics program. With the exposure they had to Tufts while growing up, the University was a natural choice for them. Jared matriculated in 2006 and Kelly enrolled in 2007. Despite the attention they receive for it, none of the Engelkings think it is all that fascinating that the three of them are here together. Each is a Tufts student in their own right, busy with their academics, athletics and social lives.

"Since my brothers both went here before me and loved it, I knew that I would enjoy Tufts as well," Kelly said. "I guess they paved the way for me. I don't mind having two older brothers here with me. Some people's reactions tend to be, 'I would never go to school with my brothers!' I don't really see any negative aspects to it. We call each other if we need something, but we all do our own thing."

Track and field facilities replace their home as the gathering spot during the school year. The men's and women's teams practice and compete together. The weekend of April 26-27, the whole family convened at Hamilton College for the NESCAC meet. Jared finished fourth and Derek fifth in the javelin throw. Jared also added a third place in the 110-meter hurdles. Kelly, competing in her first outdoor championship meet, placed eighth in the javelin and just missed scoring in the pole vault with a10th-place finish.

Their contributions to the teams over the weekend are underscored by the fact that each has battled injury woes this year. Derek, who has also played for the soccer and football teams at Tufts, has been nagged by hip and hamstring injuries during most of his senior year. Jared missed the majority of the indoor season with an ankle injury and is still making up for lost training. The boys helped the Tufts men win their first New England Division 3 indoor title since 1991 in March. Jared returned from his ankle injury to anchor the 4x400 meter relay that had Derek in the lead-off role. Derek also placed third in the pentathlon.

"Together, Derek and Jared occupy eight spots on our top 10 all-time lists for each event," men's track coach Ethan Barron said. "They've been slowed by injuries this year, but it hasn't stopped them. Derek will be competing in another decathlon this season with the hopes of qualifying for the national championships. Jared has the same goal. On [April 26], he threw the javelin farther than all but three people with less than half the run-up [he took three steps, most competitors use 12]."

 

Kelly, who vaulted 10 feet in high school, is also a member of the volleyball team. She sustained a stress fracture during that season which prevented her from competing in the pole vault during the indoor season. She did do some throwing for the team and got quite good at the weight throw. For the outdoor season, she's back to her natural events and is making great progress.

"She's done very well in the javelin and pole vault considering she just started training a month ago," women's track coach Kristen Morwick said. "She's a great athlete like her brothers. She will be very good for our team."

All multi-talented athletes, the kids have natural athletic ability and participated in many different sports when they were growing up.

"Most of the athletic ability in the family comes from my fathers side," Jared said. "He was a football, golf, basketball, and baseball player in high school and throughout his life. We were all competitive growing up. We've all been participating in athletics for as long as I can remember and we would always be participating in sports year round. We also all did gymnastics for many years, which definitely improved our athleticism."

Rhonda Engelking, mother of the children, is the only family member who does not currently go to Tufts on a daily basis. However, she and Larry are active supporters of the Jumbos, making it to most all of the volleyball matches and track meets. With three children in college simultaneously, Rhonda is pleased to report that the family is getting great value from Tufts.

"When I look at the overall experience they are receiving, I am extremely pleased that they chose to attend Tufts," she said. "They are thriving academically, athletically and socially."

In contrast to their similarities in athletics, their academic pursuits are varied. Derek graduates in May with a degree in economics and will attend Brown University's Graduate School of Public Affairs and Public Policy next year. Jared is a political science major, and Kelly is in the mechanical engineering program. The 2007-08 academic year will be the only time that the three siblings are on campus together. There are no more children in the family. If there were, chances are great that he or she would also be a Jumbo.

"Word on the street is that my parents wanted to have a fourth," Derek said. "I suppose it's a good thing they didn't because he or she probably would have outdone us all."

Profile written by Paul Sweeney, Sports Information Director. Photo by Alonso Nichols for University Photography. This story was originally published on the Tufts Athletics website.

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