By Michael Kinney
Coming into this season, Emma Downing didn’t know what to expect out of her senior year. Dealing with a chronic knee injury called Osgood-Schlatters, she wasn’t sure exactly what she would be able to do each week during the cross country season.
Osgood-Schlatters causes bone growing on her growth plate and causes acute pain in her knee when she is running.
“So, 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 when the season began. “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.”
Downing’s singing and praying must have worked. After coming in second Saturday at the 6A Girls Regional meet in Norman, she has earned a spot in this weekend’s state meet. She is going in as one of a handful of girls who have a chance to take home the individual title as well.
Downing finished the 5K course with a time of 19:40. Norman’s Sophia Maag and Midwest City’s Kenya Bailey finished in the top two spots.
With Jordan Thayer and Elaina Hinkle finishing inside the top 12, Mustang took second overall with 63 points. Norman won the regional title on their home course with 26 points.
Downing believes the Lady Broncos can have a better showing at state.
“Coach has been talking a bunch to us and he’s like, if we all race hard, and we do well, and we run our best, we can make top three,” Downing said. “But a lot of hard work and a serious mental game, it’s going to be tough to run on Saturday. I mean it just is. We’re all tired, but we’re all ready to go and ready to get done with this. So, everybody’s just going to have to work hard, everybody’s going to have to give their A game mentally.”
The Mustang boys also qualified for state as a team with their fifth place finish at the regional meet.
Gabe Simonsen led the charge by placing seventh overall with a time off 16:55. Cameron Mills, Kaleb Brooks and Antonio Cervantes all placed inside the top 30.
Edmond Memorial, who won the boys title. Norman, Yukon, Norman North, Westmoore and Edmond North also advanced to state.
The 6A State Cross Country Championships will be held at Edmond Santa Fe. The meet is set to start at 10 a.m. and temperatures are expected to be in the 40s.
Yet, with this being the last cross country meet wearing the Broncos uniform for many of the runners, they don’t plan to let anything slow them up. That includes frigid weather or a painful knee.
“I just tell myself it’s not real. Just being on top of the ice baths, on top of the stretching, doing everything that I possibly can to keep it as less inflamed as I can,” Downing said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s just mentally, how hard can you push through a race.”