First meet brings promise for cross country season

Jaeger returns to the course after year long rehabilitation

First meet brings promise for cross country season

Injuries: they’re risks that come with every sport. Sophomore Kelsey Jaeger started to feel some pain in her foot during indoor track season in 2013. She kept running, thinking the pain and annoyance would go away. The injury progressively got worse and  Jaeger had to have surgery in April 2013. She  experienced a plate tear, where the tendons in her big toes tore away from the bone. The purpose of the surgery was to reattach the tendons. The recovery and therapy for Jaeger included keeping weight off her foot for eight weeks. During that time, she had to use a wheelchair or scooter.

Jaeger, now back on the UW-Eau Claire women’s cross country team for the first time since Fall 2012, knows her body and the warning signs for injuries.

“I’m trying to stay on top of my health by doing the little things like making sure I ice,” Jaeger said. “When my foot starts to hurt again I cross train for a day or two and then I’m able to get back into it.”

This past weekend Jaeger, along with the rest of both cross country teams, competed in their first meet, The Alumni Open meet at Lowes Creek County Park.

Jaeger finished first with a time of 19:37. Not far behind her was a Blugold alumni from the class of 2014, Nikki Rendler, with a time of 19:43 over 5,000 meters.

For the men’s team, finishing first was sophomore transfer student from the University of Minnesota, Josh Thorson with a time of 21:34. In second place was 2011 alumni Otto Max Renner.

The meet was an event that allowing current runners to compete against Eau Claire alumni who have once been a part of the cross country team. Mary Wirtz, who graduated in 2009 and works with the team from Salt Lake City, Utah on nutrition, made the trip back with her husband Chris, 2010 alumni.

“It was wonderful to be back,” Wirtz said. “It was really nostalgic to run again, especially with this team,” Mary Wirtz said.

Head cross country coach Dan Schwamberger said the meet was a good start to the season. His main focus this year is to keep the team healthy and avoid injuries.

According to Schwamberger, the best way to do this is for the athletes to listen to their bodies and come to him or other coaches.

“For a minor injury, usually it only takes a day or two of being smart with it,” Schwamberger said. “You can be back to full speed in a couple days. Sometimes taking a couple days off is smarter.” “I really encourage my athletes to swing by my office and let me know how things are going if I can’t reach out to them after practice.”

Jaeger and Schwamberger both said there are two huge things to help with injuries or preventing them. It’s important to take advantage of the training room and to cross train especially in the first few weeks.

The team has this coming weekend off from competition. On Sept. 20 the teams will travel to St. Olaf (Minn.) to compete in the St. Olaf Invitations for their first official meet of the season.

Throughout the coming weeks as they prepare for conference, regionals and nationals, the coaching staff stresses the athletes to listen to their bodies. Schwamberger said he constantly reminds the athletes that it’s okay to rest and to cross train instead. He said before they know it, they’re back in prime shape.

He hopes more athletes will listen to their bodies to avoid permanent injuries like Jaeger’s experience. According to Jaeger, she now knows when her body is telling her to slow down and cross train.

“I learned the hard way,” Jaeger said about listening to her body in practice.