Created: Sunday, February 2, 2014 4:57 p.m. CDT
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Prep Zone: Former Marengo star Ettner Glakas' greatness includes humility

Sara Ettner Glakas
Sara Ettner Glakas

Four losses in four college seasons.

A lot of college teams could experience four losses in two weeks.

Fourteen losses in three high school seasons.

A lot of high school teams suffer that many in one season.

A state track and field medal every year of high school.

A lot of high school athletes would be happy to medal at state once.

Those are some of the credentials that stand out on Sara Ettner’s résumé. The accolades pile up in such ridiculous numbers that Ettner, whose last name now is Glakas, will go down as one of the easiest choices the Marengo High School Hall of Fame Committee will ever make.

Ettner, a 1997 Marengo graduate, was part of the school’s first state champion in any sport when she won the Class A 800-meter relay with Kerry Eddy, Sara Nelson and Kristi Ragdsale in 1996. She was the Northwest Herald Girls Basketball Player of the Year and the Northwest Herald Female Athlete of the Year in 1997.

Ettner Glakas, now an investment adviser in Austin, Texas, was part of the Marengo Hall of Fame induction class Saturday night at the high school. Ettner looked like she easily could have been only seven years out of high school instead of 17. She is married to Christian Glakas, who works at the University of Texas, and they have a daughter, Sasha, who is almost 2.

Ettner Glakas was gracious and humble. The rest of us were again awed by reliving some of her greatness.

“Our [basketball] teams were always really good,” Ettner Glakas said. “I wish more of the girls could have come tonight. We were an insanely talented team. When I was a sophomore, we were talented. When I was a junior we were talented. When I was a senior, my sisters [twins Emily and Elisa] and Kristan Knake were sophomores. We kind of came in waves.”

Ettner Glakas hit the winning shot in the Class A supersectional as Marengo defeated Timothy Christian, 51-50, to advance to the 1997 Class A State Tournament. Ralph Hix, who coached that team, is dead, but assistant coach Joel Danzl-Tauer presented Ettner Glakas on Saturday night and shared stories about her.

“The character and leadership she displayed were beyond compare,” Danzl-Tauer said. “She motivated teammates with her excellence.”

And Danzl-Tauer also remembered after the 1997 season when Ettner, as a show of gratitude, took him and Hix out to dinner. Ettner Glakas made certain to mention Hix, who was a character as well as a great coach, in her list of “thank you’s.”

“He passed away a few years ago, and the world’s a less colorful place because of it,” she said. “He would have loved this.”

Ettner Glakas singled out her sister, Aimee Ritter, who is seven years older, as a huge influence. Mike and Judy Ettner’s three younger daughters always went to Aimee’s events, plus she helped toughen Sara up.

“One of my first memories is my sports hero [Aimee] hitting me in the chest with a line drive,” Sara said during her acceptance speech. “I didn’t want to cry in front of her, so I ran inside. Thank you for making me tough.”

Aimee didn’t recall that story, but appreciated the shout-out.

“I have a daughter [Hannah], who’s 12 and an aspiring basketball player,” Aimee said. “She’s a lot like Sara. So I kind of look for Hannah to look at her Aunt Sara to develop her leadership skills and some of the other qualities.”

Perhaps like academics. On top of Ettner Glakas’ athletic skills, she ranked fourth in her class and attended Washington University in St. Louis, a prestigious academic institution.

In three years at Marengo, Ettner’s basketball teams were 72-14. In four years at Washington, the Bears were 116-4 and won four NCAA Division III national championships.

“I was mediocre on that Wash U team,” Ettner Glakas said. “I’m getting all the credit when I don’t deserve it. I was very middle-of-the-road. I was a role player and sat on the bench for the first year. I started my last year and played quite a bit the middle two years. I was a contributor, but I wasn’t a star. I fell into a very nice situation, which is good.”

Ettner Glakas said her role was to hang around the 3-point line and hit 3s, which of course, she did well, hitting 50.6 percent as a senior to lead the nation.

Perhaps the story that best exemplifies the type of athlete Ettner Glakas was came her senior year after Eddy, Nelson and Ragsdale had graduated. They had finished fourth, second and first in the 800 relay, but if Ettner was getting a medal as a senior, it would have to be on her own.

Indians coach Dave Anderson and Ettner Glakas discussed the options and decided she was not quite fast enough in the 400 or 800. So, the 300 hurdles it was. Never mind that the 300 hurdles are regarded as pretty much the toughest event in high school track and field.

“It was really lonely. I’d never been by myself before, I was always on relays,” Ettner Glakas said. “The hurdles were hard. At some points, I was thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”

She did it because she was a great athlete and the consummate competitor. At state, running in Lane 8 with no runner in Lane 9, she won her heat, which meant she never saw another girl in the race. And the next day, she added to her legendary status with a sixth-place finish and another state medal, although it could not top the previous year.

“I was lucky to be blessed with the best teammates in volleyball, basketball and track,” Ettner Glakas said. “In 1996, when Kristi passed me the baton, they had given me such a huge lead that my grandma could have anchored that relay and still won. Standing on top of the podium with three teammates is one of the best days of my life.”

• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at joestevenson@shawmedia.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.