Time Is Now for Fountain Valley’s Winkler : Cross-country: High school runner has moved up into the elite level in just a few years.


As overnight successes go, Angie Winkler is miles in front of the pack.

Winkler, a senior at Fountain Valley High, won the Las Vegas Invitational large-school girls’ cross-country race Sept. 9 at Henderson, Nev., and also is expected to challenge for the Sunset League title this season.

The astounding thing about Winkler’s accomplishments is that she has been competing in distance running for two years--a nanosecond in training years for most cross-country runners.

“It’s more of an improvement than [any by] anybody I have ever had,” said Dan Moran, Fountain Valley’s coach for eight years.


Winkler was ineligible as a freshman because she decided to attend Fountain Valley rather than Marina, in which attendance area she lives. Under Southern Section rules at the time, Winkler had to sit out a year.

Winkler wanted to attend Fountain Valley because she studies before school every morning at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, located next to Fountain Valley High. Religion occupies a central position in Winkler’s life.

“I think about it a lot related to running,” she said. “I always pray about helping me to run better.”

Moran spotted Winkler her freshman year, when she ran a decent yet unspectacular half-mile in a physical education class. In her first season of cross-country as a sophomore, Winkler was the Barons’ No. 5 runner, consistently scoring in meets but never in sight of the front-runners. Becca Armour, then a freshman, was the Barons’ top runner.

Winkler also competed in the distance events in track as a sophomore and continued to improve. During the summer before her junior year, she logged many miles with Armour and showed up for cross-country running like an elite athlete.

“It was the difference between night and day,” Moran said.

In Fountain Valley’s season-opening dual meet against Huntington Beach last year, Winkler beat Armour.


“There were about three of us up here and. . . I just had more drive to be out in front,” said Winkler, who was surprised when she surpassed Armour. “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m beating her and she’s a good runner.’ ”

Winkler ran with the leaders in almost every league dual meet after that and placed fourth in the league final.

Two things make it a good bet Winkler will win the league title this season. Winkler has gained experience against top runners, and last season’s league champion, Courtney Pugmire of Esperanza, is at Brigham Young.

“[Winkler’s] chances are very good, especially with the good summer she had training and the success that she has had in the early season,” Moran said.

Winkler hopes to break her personal record of 18:24 set last year on a three-mile course. She could accomplish that goal as soon as Thursday, when Edison plays host to Fountain Valley, or Sept. 30 at the Dana Hills Invitational.

Winkler has other goals this season that will require more of a stretch. The Southern Section Division I title--which Pugmire won last year--is not beyond her reach.


Winkler has a chance to become Fountain Valley’s best distance runner, surpassing Annabelle Villanueva, who won the 1979 section Division 4-A championship and was the only other Baron to win the Las Vegas Invitational.

Villanueva also holds the school record in the two mile with a time of 10:35. Winkler’s best time in the two mile last spring was 10:58.

“That’s a lot to ask,” Moran said about Winkler’s chance to surpass Villanueva. “If it was based on heart, not just talent alone, she could do it.”

Running serves as an outlet for Winkler’s competitive spirit.

“I get very much of a runner’s high,” she said. “When I’m out in front, I think, ‘OK, I have to do this now.’ It’s just where I want to be.”

That same drive pushes Winkler in many parts of her life.

She has a 3.9 grade-point average and hopes to attend BYU as an education major and become a teacher or coach.

As a child, Winkler kept pace with her two older sisters.

“If we climbed a mountain, little Angie was right there with us,” said her father, Dave. “I guess that kind of illustrates her competitiveness, although I didn’t recognize it [at the time].”


Dave Winkler has been a park ranger for nearly 20 years at Huntington Beach Central Park, where many cross-country teams train and compete. Over the years, Winkler has watched hundreds of racers while patrolling the grounds--”I’ve patched up a lot of sprained ankles,” he said.

When Angie began running, the races became interesting.

“I have always been kind of involved. I never realized that I would have somebody to cheer for,” he said.

Although Winkler’s development as a runner has been quick, Moran said her body is fine.

“She didn’t start seriously running until the summer before her junior year, so therefore, if she didn’t put in any serious mileage as an age-grouper or in her first two years in high school, her body is not worn down at all,” he said.

But, like most overnight success stories, many will be watching Winkler to see if she can keep up the pace.