Cast can’t keep sophomore off course
Phil Williams has seen virtually everything there is to see in high school cross country.
This season, he witnessed something he's never seen in the 33 years of coaching the Tonganoxie High boys and girls teams -- one of his runners has been competing with a cast on her right arm for a broken thumb.
That's not all. Despite the cast providing an imbalance during her meets, she still qualified for the Oct. 27 state tournament in Wamego.
The name's Andie Jeannin. The determination is undeniable.
"It's very impressive," Williams said. "One of the key things to being a good distance runner is to keep your arms relaxed and to keep as little wasted motion as possible in your upper body and conserve all that energy. I'm sure the cast weighs a couple pounds. There's even more strength it takes to carry those arms around without getting really tight."
If the cast didn't occupy half of Jeannin's right arm, you'd hardly notice she had it on. The sophomore started wearing the cast Sept. 14. Since then, she hasn't missed a meet. She's finished as Tonganoxie's No. 2 runner each time, then finished in the top THS spot on Saturday at the regional meet in Ottawa.
On Sept. 29 in Lawrence, Jeannin actually recorded her best time of the year with the cast on. She clocked a time of 17 minutes, 4 seconds at the Rim Rock Invite.
Pretty impressive, especially when you consider Jeannin has had to balance the weight of her arms with rolls of coins and rocks. As a way to have each arm carry equal weight, Jeannin firmly gripped a roll of coins in her left hand for nearly the entire race. It didn't work out, so she altered the technique and tried a rock.
"I've thrown the rock away with about a mile left each time, but at league, Will found me one that worked, so I didn't throw it at all," Jeannin said of Williams. "It's the first race I've finished with it."
So without the cast and without the rocks, how much time could Jeannin shave off her 4K times?
"I think 30 seconds to a minute faster," Williams said. "It's hard to say, but I think it'd be close to that."
As for what Jeannin thought?
"I think my times would improve because I feel good except for this," Jeannin said. "I can tell it slows me down. I don't know if it'd make a lot of difference, but I think it'd make some."
Jeannin clocked a time of 17:20 at Saturday's regional meet to qualify for state.
She tried a new technique Saturday: Not running with anything in her left hand.
"My shoulder's been hurting me lately from all the strain," Jeannin said. "It started hurting with like a mile left. When there was like half a mile left, I was just in the zone. I didn't even feel it."
Jeannin broke her thumb on Aug. 29 in a strength training program at THS. Her thumb got caught in a tarp used for a weight exercise.
When she visited a doctor in Lawrence, Jeannin was told she couldn't run for the remainder of the season. Jeannin had alternate plans.
"They ended up saying I could run if the trainer tapes it up," Jeannin said.
Here's the process for meets: Jeannin gets her thumb pre-wrapped and taped before each meet. Then, two layers of padding are applied underneath the cast to protect the tape and provide support for Jeannin's arm. The cast keeps it all together.
Jeannin will have the cast on for two more weeks. She'll then have to wear a brace for another month before getting back to 100 percent.
"There have been several spectators and coaches around who have commented to me on what a great job she's done with the cast on," Williams said.