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Teenager will train with nation's best

photo
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
PAngela Prescott demonstrates a spin hook kick with Chris Wence, 15, at the Shore Acres Recreation Center. She scored a technical knockout by using the kick during a national tournament this year.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 18, 2001


She's only 16 but Angela Prescott is poised to become an Olympic-level athlete in tae kwon do.

"I'm awake 14 hours a day, right? That's a lot of time, isn't it?" Angela Prescott asked, explaining how she could be ranked at the top of her St. Petersburg High class academically, participate in volleyball, cheerleading, soccer and track, slavishly watch the Food Channel and be a junior and senior national champion in tae kwon do.

What could she accomplish if she didn't sleep so much?

Prescott, 16, is a year from high school graduation but she is already cresting the pinnacle of her sport. She won the bantamweight title (112.4-121 pounds) at the U.S. team trials June 22-24 in Colorado Springs and won the welterweight title (114-121 pounds) at the U.S. Junior Olympic Tournament (age 17 and under) earlier this month in Tampa.

Today, Prescott leaves for Colorado Springs and the Olympic Training Center, where she will spend the next year training with the best coaches and athletes in the nation. She will be preparing for, among other things, the Junior Pan American Games on Sept. 20-22 in Chile and the World Championships on Nov. 1-7 in Jeju City, Korea.

"It's so exciting. I'll be learning so much," said the 5-foot-4 Prescott, who will attend a Colorado Springs high school for her senior year. "I'm very, very nervous about performing my best out there. I'm training with unbelievable athletes and great coaches."

Prescott has developed into an Olympic-caliber athlete while simultaneously compiling a 3.9 GPA in the demanding International Baccalaureate program at school and engaging in a myriad of extra-curricular activities -- plus regularly indulging her appetite for the Food Channel. She has been training with instructor Bill Ferkile at the Shore Acres Recreation Center since she was 7.

"The rec center was (Angela's and 14-year-old brother Arthur's) bus stop," said her father, Brad, who is retired from the Army and works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. "I really can't say enough good things about tae kwon do. It's great physical exercise and it teaches discipline.

"It's been pretty exciting to watch her progress."

Prescott quickly became immersed in the sport. South Florida student Andrea Ferkile, Bill Ferkile's daughter, has trained with and been a mentor for Prescott.

"I can't remember a time during one of our practices were she has taken it a little easy. With Angela, that's not even in her book," said Andrea Ferkile, 20, a gold medalist at the National Collegiate Championships who also will head to the Olympic Training Center after she competes in the Goodwill Games in Japan later this month. "I have yet to meet anyone that has as much drive and determination to accomplish her goals."

Prescott initially preferred forms -- performing an individual routine -- to fighting before changing her focus.

"I was a forms buff, and I despised fighting. I couldn't do it, I wasn't good at it, I was afraid of getting hit, I was afraid of hitting people," Prescott said. "When I was 13 I started going to training camps, and that's when I started developing. In 1997 at a junior national competition in Louisville, Ky., I had four fights and I won them all. At that point I realized there was something in me."

In tae kwon do, which debuted as an Olympic medal sport last year in Sydney, a point is scored three ways: with a kick to the chest (which is protected by padding called a hogu), a punch to the chest, or a kick to the head (protected by head gear). Two of three judges must concur that the blow was registered clean and hard for it to be scored a point.

Senior competitions are three rounds of three minutes each, and junior competitions are three rounds of one minute each.

"In the women's competitions, you have to be very technical. It's like a chess game. You've really got to know what your opponent's good at and what you need to do to shut that down," said Prescott, who defeated 26-year-old Jennifer Srutowski, the 1999 champion, 5-2 in the title match at the U.S. team trials. "In the junior division, it's over like this. All you do is kick-kick-kick. If you get lazy for one second, you lose."

The action is fast, furious and rough.

"People don't realize how competitive tae kwon do is," Prescott said. "It's so fast-paced, so action-packed."

Prescott, however, has never had a serious injury, only a broken toe. She is better at dishing out the pain. At the national tournament in Cleveland this year, a precursor to the U.S. team trials, the Ferkiles' home video shows Prescott recording a technical knockout by landing a haymaker to her opponent's head with a perfectly executed back-spinning hook kick.

"It's a timing kick we call the "lottery kick' -- you don't hit it often, but when you do, it's like winning the lottery," Bill Ferkile said. "Angela is extremely fast, and she's able to read her opponents. She can set up her moves two or three moves ahead."

Prescott hopes to become a fixture on national teams, and making the 2004 Olympic team is one of her goals. She got a taste of Olympic Training Center life -- three hard workout sessions a day -- when she trained there for two weeks in early June in preparation for the U.S. team trials.

"When I first started, the (Shore Acres) gym was full -- Mr. Ferkile only had one class back then -- and I was the last person in line," Prescott said. "And today, nine years later, I'm at the head of the line. Imagine that.

"I'm just glad that I got into this. It's shaped my personality. To be going to OTC? It's just incredibly exciting."

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