In June 1976, Sheila Ingram, then a 19-year-old Coolidge High School graduate, won the 400-meter run at the United States Olympic Trials. That summer at the Montreal Olympics she finished sixth in the 400-meter run in 50.90, then an American women's record, as Poland's Irena Szewinski set a world mark of 49.29 to win the gold medal. Ingram then won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. 1,600-meter relay team. The 5-foot-4, 113-pound Ingram still holds the National High School 400-meter record with her Olympic time.
But after reaching the Olympic heights, she decided she was finished with track, tired of the hard work and dedication required to reach the top. Now, six years later, 24-year-old Sheila Ingram is running again, while attending St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C. Last week she tied for the Central Collegiate Athletic Association 500-meter crown with a 1:14 clocking, which places her seventh in the United States this season. And she says, "I'm not really in good shape yet.
"When I was finished with the Olympics, I had already run for seven years," she said last week from her mother's Northwest Washington home. "At the time, I really had no time for myself, and I didn't want to put the dedication into it."
After spending the years since Montreal "just working and partying," Ingram got a burning desire to run again. "Last summer I realized I really missed it," she said. "God gave me a talent, and I decided it was about time that I get back on track. I wanted a college education and after that I want to coach somewhere when I'm done running."
Her former Coolidge High School coach Adrian Dixon, who helped her get a track scholarship to St. Augustine's, says he sees a completely different woman. Says Dixon, "She has grown up a great deal, and has a whole different outlook about running."