Girls Track: Libertyville’s Stewart fights through the pain, rallies to earn trip to State
Libertyville's Carly Stewart races to a second-place finish in the 800 meters in last Thursday's sectional at Grayslake North. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 16, 2012 1:27AM
Libertyville High School junior Carly Stewart had a hunch it was more than shin splints she was battling at the start of the 2012 indoor track season.
“I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was just different,” she said. “I knew something was wrong.”
Sure enough, she was diagnosed with a stress reaction in her lower legs. It’s less severe than a fracture, but it put Stewart in a tough position. Should she shut herself down for the year and recover or figure out a way to make it through the season?
Actually, it wasn’t much of a choice.
“I couldn’t stop with the (outdoor season) coming up,” she said. “I knew I had to keep going.”
So, from the middle of February to mid-March, Stewart did not run at all. Instead, the only way she could stay in shape without hurting herself further was by biking.
Wildcats coaches put her on a twice-a-day cycling regiment. She arrived at school at 6 a.m. to ride the bike, and she did a second session while the Wildcats were practicing after school.
All that hard work paid off for Stewart at Friday’s Grayslake North Sectional. For the third consecutive year, she qualified for the state meet by placing second in the 800-meter run (2:19.55). Barrington’s Caroline Carley finished first (2:15.19).
“It’s always really special when you start out the season with what could be a really bad injury and you’re able to come back,” said Libertyville coach Tom Bizosky. “What she (accomplished) was absolutely amazing.”
The bike workouts kept Stewart’s speed up, but when she returned to the lineup in earnest in the middle of April, it took a while for her distance base to return.
Stewart believes she has more time to drop at the state meet, to be held at Eastern Illinois University, in Charleston, Friday and Saturday.
“There’s a lot more in me, and I really hope I can show it at the state meet,” she said.
Bizosky is not surprised one bit by Stewart’s attitude.
“No matter what, she’s always hungry,” he said. “She’s an aggressive runner who never holds back, and that’s part of the reason why we like to use her as the anchor in our relays. You know she will pull it out, no matter what.”
Stewart enjoys the challenge of the 800, one of track’s most demanding races.
“It’s a love-hate relationship,” she said with a smile. “It’s the longest sprint because there is more pacing. You have so much adrenaline, so it’s not that bad during the race. But after, you feel like you can’t breathe. I love the feeling, though, when you accomplish your goals.”
Recap: In addition to Stewart, three other Wildcats qualified for State.
Senior Jen Angster finished second in the 200 (25.86).
“Jen did not want to miss out on State her senior year,” Bizosky said. “We’ll do whatever we can now for her to finish as high as possible.”
Junior Haley Becker was second in high jump (5-3).
“We’d love to see her hit her peak of 5-5, which she jumped before,” Bizosky said.
Junior Nicole Jaffke was third in pole vault (11-3).
Stewart said this trip to State will be even more significant because the four girls get along so well.
“It will definitely be more fun because we’re all good friends,” she said.