Catherine Voelpel


After playing youth soccer for several years, Catherine Voelpel was hesitant to take up a new sport, running. But Jim Keefe, an All-American runner at Central Connecticut in the 1960’s, saw something when Voelpel was playing soccer at McGee Middle School where he coached runners – speed.

“I think you’d do well in it,” he said.

Voelpel said it wasn’t hard playing soccer, a team sport. Even though running was hard, she kept at it. “Coach Keefe made it fun,” she said.

When “Cat,” as she was nicknamed, got to Berlin High, she stayed with soccer in the fall and track the rest of the year. “I still had doubts about running, “she said. “Every time I ran a race, I’d say, ‘Why did I start this?’ ”

Then she started winning 400-meter races and was a member of winning relays. “I kept qualifying for things,” she said.

Redcoats track coach Steve Soucy also noticed some hesitancy in Voelpel. “I don’t think she was sure about running being a fulltime sport,” he said. “Soccer was her first love.”

But once she saw continued success, she was all in. Voelpel and Soucy studied the 400 and broke it into segments. “You have to hit the splits right,” Soucy said. “We had it down to a science.”

Voelpel still holds the school 400 record (56.54), “and no one is even close,” Soucy said. And she was All-New England in the 400, part of the school-record 4×800 relay and a national qualifier in both. And as a junior she was third in the New England 400.

Voelpel took that talent and her glossy honors work in the classroom to the University of Maryland. “It was a completely different world; I would have to prove myself,” she said.

She still had doubts: saying: “Now, what did I get myself into?”

But when she began working with her coach Andrew Valmon, also a USA Track and Field coach, she saw a great opportunity. “I was excited to see what I could do,” she said.

All she did was set the Maryland indoor 600 record (1:30:04), which still stands. “It was more than I expected, “she said.

Now, 29, and living in Dorchester, Mass., she sells medical devices. “It’s an inspiring field to get into, “she said.

No doubt.

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