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Running man

Knechtel uses speed to excel at sports, land a spot in hall of fame

April 15, 2012
BY JAMES ANDERSEN - News Sports Writer ( , The Alpena News

The athlete in Craig Knechtel might be compelled to sprint up to the podium when Alpena Sports Hall of Fame President Gary Mischley announces his name as a member of the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame.

After all, Knechtel made an entire athletic career out of his running ability, first at Alpena High School, where he earned three letters each in track and cross country and later at Capital University, where he was a star on the soccer and men's track teams.

"The only thing I could do was run. Every sport I participated in, speed was important," Knechtel said. "You can make up for a lot with speed."

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Craig Knechtel was a standout runner for Alpena High, but when he went on to Capital University in Ohio he added soccer to his repertoire and become one of the school’s all-time greats in soccer and track.

His skills on the soccer field and on the track have earned Knechtel a place in the 2011 Hall of Fame class when he will be inducted on May 5 along with Rex Ferguson, Nick Alexander and Matt Cameron.

"I'm honored; it's quite a reward to receive that," Knechtel said. "Uncle Gare (Mischley) called me while I was in Pickerington, Ohio, coaching my seventh grade basketball team."

Under the tutelage of Tom Bennett, Knechtel, a 1974 Alpena graduate, immediately became a star for the Wildcats, breaking a cross country record as a freshman and later setting a mile indoor relay record.

When it came time to decide on a college, Knechtel had only one choice in mind: Capital University, a Lutheran college of less than 3,000 students in Bexley, Ohio.

"It's a Lutheran school so through our church, it's the only place I applied to and my parents wanted me to go there," Knechtel said.

Capital University proved to be the perfect setting for Knechtel, who went on to become a Hall of Famer with the Crusaders, earning eight letters. It was there that Knechtel found another sport where he speed could be utilized: soccer.

As a member of the Crusaders' soccer team playing left wing, Knechtel was a star. He led the team in soccer for all four years he played and was a co-captain for two years. He twice earned honorable mention All-Conference soccer honors. In 1977 alone, Knechtel made first team all-conference, made the All-Ohio soccer team, the All-Mideast team and was named soccer Most Valuable Player.

Knechtel's brilliant soccer career was rewarded when he was awarded the William Bernlohr Man Award as the Varsity C Outstanding Senior in 1978.

"I wanted to do something, so it worked out well. They were just getting the soccer program established," Knechtel said of his soccer career. "It had been around for like four or five years and I tried out and it worked really well."

While he led Capital on the soccer field, Knechtel compiled a stellar track resume with a decorated running career for the Crusaders. He was selected Ohio Athletic Conference All-Conference for track four times and was a track co-captain in 1978. In 1976, he was named Running Events Most Valuable Player.

As on the soccer field, Knechtel excelled on the track, setting an indoor track record in the 300 at 32.34 seconds; a mark he held for several years. In the school record books, Knechtel's indoor marks in the 400 and 500 are still the 10th and seventh best times in school history, respectively. Knechtel's outdoor 400 time ranks as the fifth fastest in school history.

"They don't have scholarships there, but we had some All-Americans there and we just kept getting better every year," Knechtel said. "I did some pretty good things, but I had great teammates around me, too."

Knechtel's career with the Crusaders made him a strong candidate for the school's Hall of Fame and he received the honor in 1997.

Upon returning to Alpena, Knechtel, who teaches eighth grade science at Teays Valley East Middle School in Ashville, Ohio, showed his athletic versatility again in the Alpena Men's Softball League. He was the league batting champion in 1984 and earned the title in 1988 and 1989 in the men's slow-pitch league. In 1992, he helped lead Miller's to a championship and was named tournament Most Valuable Player.

"I had a good time. I saved a lot of infield singles and my job was to get on base," Knechtel said. "The guys I played with, there were an awful lot of good guys."

Knechtel is proud of the fact he was able to play so many sports, but said he will be sure to thank his teammates in his induction speech for helping him along in his career.

"A lot of the guys that are in there are one-sport guys," Knechtel said. I was a jack-of-all trades but a master of none."



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