strongChris Eyer, Beacon Staff/strong
As Heather Hoglund flew through the air, the sand pit beneath her, it was a familiar feeling. She had navigated the long jump many times, in practice and in meets, and had executed with no problem.
But on this day, Hoglund said, as she touched down, she felt a tweak in her left knee, and suffered an injury that would threaten her ability to run ever again.
“I just landed and — poof — my kneecap just shattered,” Hoglund said of the high school injury.
Hoglund, who currently runs with Emerson cross-country, fractured her left patella, an injury that can end a runner’s career.
At the time no one, including Hoglund, knew what was wrong. Without knowing the extent of the damage, she continued to run the rest of the track season.
“It got more and more painful, to the point where I couldn’t even step down on it,” Hoglund said. “I would take practices off, and I would take meets off that weren’t as important for the team.”
Colleen Naboicheck , her coach at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, said, even though Hoglund was in pain, she toughed it out.
“We didn’t really know how bad things were until later on. Heather’s one of those athletes who’s going to work through everything,” said Naboicheck
Still, even for the toughest of athletes, a fractured patella is too much to push through, and Hoglund eventually had arthroscopic surgery on the knee, a procedure that uses two small incisions to mend the knee.
[caption id=attachment_3813666 align=aligncenter width=100 caption=Barbara Platts/Beacon Staff]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Platts_Hoglund2.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3813666 title=Platts_Hoglund2 src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Platts_Hoglund2.jpg alt= width=100 height=271 //a[/caption]
Hoglund, now a visual and media arts major, did not run her freshman year at Emerson. She joined the cross-country team as a sophomore.
And yet, a little over a year after undergoing the procedure, Hoglund was blowing by the majority of the field in the 2010 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship cross-country meet. Running for Emerson, Hoglund finished in a close second place with a five kilometer time of 21:02.
However, the road to recovery was a long one. After surgery, Hoglund said she could not run for six months. She stopped wearing orthotic inserts in her shoes, and eased into the mileage slowly.
Emerson cross-country head coach John Furey said he gave Hoglund a program to help ease into her return to running during the end of Hoglund’s freshman year. The program, which added to excercies a previous trainer had given her for rehab, included working on her core and upper body strength.
“When she came in sophomore year she was in unbelievable shape and was the best runner in the conference right up until the last meet,” Furey said. “She didn’t have the perfect season, but she had a great season. She battled through different injuries that were all kind of an offshoot from her original knee injury.”
Hoglund said from time-to-time last season she had experienced a “pinching pain” in her knee.
But fellow captain Lauren Cortizo said that it did not take long for Hoglund to move to the top of the pack.
“I knew she had an injury at first, but she was still easily one of the best runners on our team. Even compared to most of the people within our conference, she was still elite,” Cortizo said. “We all noticed that she was constantly making sure that her injury was ok. She was always stretching and she went to physical therapy, but I feel like it didn’t have much of an effect on her running, which was really great.”
Hoglund has worked with Furey to minimize the risk of another injury, by running her exclusively on grass, and doing more cross training, such as pool running and rowing, all of which put less stress on her knee.
Furey won GNAC coach of the year in 2009 and was named one of the top 100 trainers in the country by Men’s Journal in 2005.
The coach said that after working with Hoglund on building core strength and working on her running form she has continued to improve in her second season.
“She’s definitely in the best shape of her life now,” he said.
Hoglund said her favorite part of cross-country was the team aspect. For Hoglund, the competitiveness among teammates has made this season all the more enjoyable.
“I love this season,” Hoglund said. “It’s so great for me to have people on my team who are running with me, especially since we have different styles and we push and pull each other throughout the races.”
That push was on display this season at the Pop Crowell Invitational. Hoglund and junior Georgia Dixon finished within a second of each each other at 34th and 35th out of 270 runners. Freshman Ali Doukas came in 10 seconds later at 40th.
However, while training for her first Boston Marathon in the offseason, Hoglund said she grew to appreciate the solitary aspect of running as well.
“I did a lot of long runs, and I would train on my own,” Hoglund said. “Running has developed into a stress reliever for me. It’s a time to think; it’s a time to work out problems.”
Hoglund said she has not had any injuries so far this year, though she is still a little nervous when it comes to her knee.
“There are still times in races — mainly when I’m going up a hill — I’ll step down and feel it and get a little nervous,” she said. “Luckily, I’m usually in race mode and I forget about it.”
emEyer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter /emem@prymetymechris./em