By Michael Kinney, Contributing Writer
Emma K. Downing admits it’s not easy. The Mustang High cross country runner is competing each day not at her best due to a chronic injury called Osgood-Schlatters that causes pain in her bones while she is running.
Yet, despite the constant pressure of the pain, Downing has started her senior season off with a bang. Saturday she took second place in the Deer Creek Invitational after running a 20:05 on a 5k course that had been drenched in rain.
“The course is really muddy, so it’s kind of rough to run,” Downing said. “I ran at a lot faster time than I was expecting. I don’t quite know what the time is, but it’s somewhere in the low 20s, and I was expecting a 21. So I’m very excited about that. Getting second was kind of crazy. It’s just like I don’t know the competition this year, so I kept up with the first girl pretty well and, say yeah, pretty good I feel like.”
Downing finished eight seconds behind Deer Creek’s Elysia Birgos, who took the top honors. Madeline Loosen of Kingfisher finished third, almost a full minute behind Downing.
“Honestly, if you saw me racing, I pretty much leaped through all of that ‘cause I was just like, ah ‘cause I was slipping really, really bad,” Downing said. “So I kept … I tried to keep my footing, just rocking back and forth and jumping over it pretty much.”
One other key for Downing was to continue singing through the course. It helped her take her mind of the pain in her leg.
“It’s crazy because this will be my third year running and, I’ve really struggled with it a lot. And, a lot of it has to do with me just continually running and building up a pain tolerance,” Downing said. “But, you know the only thing is I pray right before … I’m like Lord, just get me through, just help me continue to go through it. Usually I am praying or, singing some of my inspirational songs while I’m going through. But, a lot of it’s just like, alright Lord, get me through the next step.”
Right behind Downing was teammate Alex Jenkins. She finished in eighth with a time of 21:30. Sophomore Paris Nance also finished in the top 25 at Deer Creek.
On the boys side, the Broncos top placer was Cameron Mills. The senior took fourth with a time of 17:05.
“I did fairly okay. There’s a couple of spots where I slipped up or was tripped but, other than that ran fine,” Mills said. “On certain stretches in the back with the mud, I felt like I was running in place but, other than that I just found sure footing and got through it.”
Gabe Simonsen, Kaleb Brooks, Antonio Cervantes and Parker Huckabay came in the top 30 to help the Broncos take second overall with 87 team points. Deer Creek grabbed first with 79.
“I’d say we did pretty well despite the conditions,” Andrew James said. “I think we did pretty well. We’ve been training pretty hard this past week. So, aside from that I think we did well.”
However, Mills says they are a few areas the team needs to improve upon if they want to be contenders late in the season.
“Personally, I think we need to get better starts. A couple of our guys think that it’s better to pace out in front, which inherently isn’t wrong,” Mills said. “But when their pace is too slow they get boxed in and then they start way at the back where they don’t need to be.”
Mustang is back in action this morning when it hosts the 27th Annual Mustang Harrier Invitational at Wild Horse Park. Races start at 9 a.m. and will go through 1:30 p.m.