Bouncing back: Junior running faster than ever after injury

Bouncing+back%3A+Junior+running+faster+than+ever+after+injury

By Sophia Pan, Co-Managing Editor

With some of the fastest times on the team, junior Vicente Peña thought he would be running in the state championships at the end of his sophomore year cross-country season. Then, an injury a month before the championship threw a wrench in his plans. His foot started hurting a week before the 2019 Paul Short Run on Oct. 5, but Peña ignored it.

“I just kind of was stubborn about it and was like, ‘Ehh, it’s nothing,’ so it started getting worse over the week until I reached the race day, and I noticed on the first 800 meters that a very, very sharp, knife-like pain on my foot started,” Peña said.

In spite of the pain in his foot, Peña completed the boys’ 5K with a time of 17:35.80. After the race, Peña visited an expert who noticed a fracture in the second metatarsal of his left foot. He was then sent to the Rothman Institute, where his doctor told him he wouldn’t be able to run for at least half a year.

“My injury probably would have been better if I didn’t continue through, but I wanted to finish. I knew it was going to be my last race by that point because of the pain, so I at least wanted to end it with somewhat of a good note,” Peña said.

After his injury, Peña spent four to five months wearing a boot, using a scooter to move around at school and crutches at home. After he got his boot off, he used a specialized foam shoe to prevent him from putting too much weight on his toes. Although Peña could not run while his foot recovered, he worked on training his upper body and keeping his aerobic endurance up.

As Peña began to start running again, he sustained a slight injury on his right foot because of over-reliance. This extended the amount of time he could not run to around eight or nine months, which took a toll on his mental health.

“Running definitely distracted me from stress from school. It was a way to give myself a little break from everything, and after that was taken away from me, I felt terrible,” Peña said.

Pena’s injury caused him to miss the winter and spring track seasons, putting a pause to the team’s long-term hopes of winning the distance medley relay at the state championships. While he was unable to run, Peña continued to attend practices and meets, and his teammates supported him throughout.

“He supported everyone else even though he probably had it the worst at that time,” said senior Ben Horner, Peña’s friend and boys cross-country captain. “From when I saw him at practice, he would try and look on the bright side. He’d be like, ‘Oh, I can finally run a mile today nonstop.’”

Now, with his injury healed, Peña is running faster than ever. He won first place in the boys’ 5K on Oct. 24 with a time of 17:08.80 and second in the boys’ 5K on Oct. 31 with a time of 17:13.50.

“I feel like since I’m back to running — actually, at a higher level than I was last year — I’m super happy,” Peña said.

Richard Hawkins, Peña’s coach, said he was impressed by Peña’s eagerness to train even when injured.

“He is constantly improving,” Hawkins said. “He knows exactly what he wants to achieve, and he knows exactly how to get there. He is intelligent and athletic at the same time, and he’s driven to do well, so he’s gonna keep improving.”

Peña is looking to achieve a good personal record on the mile for winter and spring track, and, in the long term, he hopes to attend a Division I college for running.

“It’s a common misconception that injuries make you a worse athlete. Really, it actually makes you better. It makes you realize what you lost, and it makes you realize the patience required for it,” Peña said. “It definitely helped me get better as a runner.”