After getting the news two weeks into the cross-country season that she would not be able to finish the season or even run at all for two months due to a calf injury, third-year Liz Lawton couldn’t imagine that she would be traveling with the indoor track team to today’s conference championship as the favorite in two events.
Lawton had a promising beginning to her cross-country season, but unfortunately it was cut off before she was able to capitalize on the hard work she had put in over the summer.
“Two weeks into the season I had to pull out,” Lawton said. “I finished fifth in a huge all division invitational and after that I had to take eight weeks of no running. It wasn’t the most depressing thing that’s happened to me, but it was a heartbreaker. We had a really amazing cross-country team and it was tough to not be a part of that.”
After taking two months off to let her calf recover, Lawton began training again with cautious intensity, finding ways to push herself physically without reinjuring herself. After arduous months of watching her team compete from the sideline, Lawton has developed a new outlook on running.
“I have a really different mentality about running now. I was focusing on things like times and [personal records] rather than focusing on the actual race and trying to push my body as far as it can go,” Lawton said. “In any sport, once you get wrapped up in the side details, you can lose what you love about it. I have goals now, but they’re not as concrete.”
At the beginning of this season, it had been four months since her last race, but Lawton quickly established herself as a national contender, running the second fastest time in the nation in the 5000-meter run.
Despite being careful not to reinjure her calves, Lawton has also been able to post impressive times in the mile- and 3000-meter run.
“Once you get injured, you’re hypersensitive to that area,” Lawton said. “You have to be careful, but you also have to take chances. If you’re too cautious, you don’t end up pushing the boundaries of your body.”
Lawton is but one member of an impressive ensemble of track-and-field athletes. Third-year Stephanie Omueti, also coming back from an injury, is currently seeded first in the conference in the 55- and 200-meter dash. The women’s throwers have dominated all season. Fourth-year Claire Ray currently has the farthest weight throw in the nation by about a meter. She is joined by third-year Kristin Constantine and fourth-year Nicole Murphy at the top of our conference. In addition, Paige Peltzer, who broke the school record in the high jump in her last meet, will defend her position at the top of the conference.
“I’m feeling really good about the challenge UAAs are going to present,” Peltzer said. “Right now I know of three other girls who can jump right around where I’m at in high jump. It depends on who has a good day or not, but it would be awesome to win it.”
The team competition for both the men and the women will probably come down to a battle between the Maroons, Wash U, and Emory.
“We only get to see the other teams from our conference a couple times each year, which is rare since most conferences are organized by geography,” third-year hurdler Brian Andreycak said. “Whether you’re facing one of the
top runners in the nation or your event is weak, winning and getting the 10 points for the team is the focus.”
As the men and women compete in Boston today and tomorrow, the success of the teams depends on the ability of the athletes who have performed well throughout the season to once again deliver.