Unionville senior Courtney Smith enters her third year of XC with a resume that has been growing season-to-season. As a sophomore, she was 4th in AAA at Hershey. Then last year, she won her first state title, setting a meet and course record. In the winter, she broke the state record in the 3000 meter run, but had to settle for 2nd place. She more than made up for it by twice outsprinting the same competitor, first for 3rd place in the Girls 3000 Invitational at the Penn Relays, and then in the finals of the AAA 3200 meter run at the PIAA State Championships. Despite an injury, Smith captured 3rd in an incredible 3000 at PTFCA Indoor States, and anchored her DMR to a state title. Then two weeks later, she anchored that DMR to a 6th place finish in the New Balance Nationals Indoor champs in a time ten seconds better than their state title... and anchored the 4xmile the next day to a 3rd place finish - both earning all-American recognition.
Unionville senior Courtney Smith entered her third year of XC with a resume that has been growing season-to-season. As a sophomore, she was 4th in AAA at Hershey. Then last year, she won her first state title, setting a meet and course record. In the winter, she broke the state record in the 3000 meter run, but had to settle for 2nd place. She more than made up for it by twice outsprinting the same competitor, first for 3rd place in the Girls 3000 Invitational at the Penn Relays, and then in the finals of the AAA 3200 meter run at the PIAA State Championships. Smith led her team to a qualifying spot and trip to NXN after winning the Northeast Regional. But in the first 1000 meters in Portland, she fell and was spiked. She recovered for 10th. Then during indoor, and despite an injury, Smith captured 3rd in an incredible 3000 at PTFCA Indoor States, and anchored her DMR to a state title. Two weeks later, she anchored that DMR to a 6th place finish in the New Balance Nationals Indoor champs in a time ten seconds better than their state title... and anchored the 4xmile the next day to a 3rd place finish - both earning all-American recognition. But the injury endured. She went through PT, and returned to racing at the Henderson Invitational on May 2nd. Beyond happy to be back.
Journal Entry #9 (March 26, 2014)
Coping with injury, but never giving up.
I wasn't planning on writing a journal about the last few months because I've been struggling with an injury and sometimes it is a lot easier to just block rough times out of your memory and pretend they didn't happen. However, ignoring adversity doesn't allow you to grow as a person or learn from your mistakes. Although an injury is never a good thing, I admit I learned a lot from it and I will be a better person and runner because of it.
Deciding to write the journal entry was one thing, but figuring out where to start is another. This is probably due to the amorphous nature of my problem, which still hasn't been exactly figured out yet, but I am finally making some progress and starting to develop a plan for getting back to running. Apparently for me, four months, eleven doctors/PT appointments, two X-rays and two MRIs aren't enough to get answers.
Early December I started feeling pain on my right side. I shrugged it off as simply scar tissue pain from my hernia surgery junior year and continued training as normal. By mid-January the pain had intensified to the point where it was starting to affect my stride. By now I had convinced myself I had developed another hernia and made an appointment with my surgeon, the appointment happened to be the same day as my next meet.
My race was supposed to start around 7 so my parents drove me right from the doctors to the meet and I ate in the car. The appointment had brought both good and bad news... The pain had nothing to do with my previous surgery, which was good, but now I had no idea what was causing my pain. Still in pain and without answers, I couldn't wait to get the race over with (which isn't like me at all). By seven it became apparent that the 3K wasn't starting for a while so I walked around and got to meet/talk with Greta Lindsley, Paige Stoner, and Gabrielle DiRenzo. It was Paige's birthday and at the rate the meet was going we joked that we hoped we'd actually race while it was still her birthday. The race ended up going off around 11:30 and by the time I finished cool down, I was limping very badly. As soon as I started limping and changing my stride I should have stopped, but it's a lot easier to say that now looking back.
This winter we basically did almost every run on the treadmill for the majority of the winter season. Without anyone watching me while I ran, and still without any identification of the injury, I kept pushing through and training normally. My form was completely messed up though and I started feeling compensation pain in other areas.
Meanwhile, I did my best to forget about my pain and enjoy states. We are so lucky to have such a talented state, and it was exciting watching and hearing about all the amazing performances. My two events were at the end of the day, so I didn't get to watch every race, but I wanted to congratulate fellow distance runners Brianna Schwartz in the mile and Tessa Barrett in the 3K! Also, congrats to my former lacrosse teammate, Liz McGroaty for winning the 800. For my race, I had no idea what to expect, but I was proud of our DMR team for pulling off the win. Our underclassman Anna Juul and Cami Rickenbach both PRed, and Junior Olivia Young ran well as always.
During this time I talked to a few more specialists, but no one could figure out what was wrong so we scheduled an MRI. When the results for the MRI came back the week between states and nationals, I was told I had to stop running for a while since a couple areas came up hot/inflamed, and my growth plates were still open. We decided I'd cross train every day for three hours between then and nationals to maintain fitness, race the two relays, and then shut down for a while.
I don't think I've ever been so excited for a warm up as I was the Friday of Nationals. The race went okay for me, but my injury was definitely not even close to healing despite my 8 days of cross training. After the race I got to meet and talk with my future teammate Elianna Shwayder. We happened to find Harvard uniforms on a rack there since New Balance sponsors Harvard, and we tried them on for fun:). Saying I was in a lot of pain that night is probably an understatement, but I was in a relay the next day and no alternates from our team came with us.
I'd like to say my recovery after nationals has been pain free and smooth sailing since I've stopped exercising, but that's not how life works. Still unsure of the exact cause of my pain, I visited a few more specialists and now I feel like I'm starting to figure things out a little. I'm still in pain, but not nearly as bad as when I was running. I’m not sure when I’ll be back to 100%, but I’m hoping for the best and taking things day by day and week by week.
On a brighter note, I wanted to give a few shout outs... Thanks to Kennett and Henderson for letting us use their tracks a few times when ours was still covered in snow because our school didn't allow us to shovel it. Thanks to my coach, my teammates, and especially my parents for supporting me through everything the last few months. Also, shout out to my sister who is a Sophomore at West Chester University and just ran her first ever collegiate track meet this last weekend!