By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
You don’t become one of the best distance runners in the country by being fearful of challenges and adversity, but no one wants to deal with a serious injury with the season fast-approaching.
Alyssa Aldridge did just that, suffering a leg injury during the summer, giving her opponents a six-week head start. But the Glory Days Magazine girls cross country Runner of the Year returned in time for the biggest meets to once again prove she is one of the best distance runners in the state.
The Mainland Regional senior didn’t train on land until September, when the dual-meet season was in full swing. But she also didn’t just sit back and wait. She was aggressive with her training, spending part of the summer in the pool, and also using an anti-gravity treadmill, training without putting added stress on her injured leg. She was determined to race in her senior season, especially in the championship meets.
“I was proud of myself, the way I was able to overcome everything. When I was training this summer, solely in a pool, it was hard for me to believe in what I was doing because I never had done it before,” Aldridge explained. “It seemed impossible to get results from it. To have success from it was very rewarding.”
She added: “I missed out on six weeks of training. I didn’t run on land until mid-September. I only had four weeks of training under my belt before the championship season started, so I still missed out on a very large chunk. I’m fortunate to have had the success I did have with a very little amount of training. Running is very much built upon a base and I didn’t have that base at all going into it. I did what I could with the cards I was dealt. I can’t change what happened. I just had to roll with it.”
She did more than just roll with it, piling up the hardware. As expected, Aldridge won the Atlantic County Championship (17:19) and the Cape-Atlantic League title (18:06), topping some very good local competition that included the likes of Ocean City’s Alexa Weber and Casey McLees, Holy Spirit’s Angela Bannon, and Millville’s Raelynne Miller. She moved on to take on the rest of the state, winning the sectional title (18:13), and her third consecutive state title (18:18).
Despite being so far behind, she once again proved she is one of the top runners — if not the best — in the state. She fell a few seconds short winning her third straight Meet of Champions title, losing out to Northern Highlands’ Monica Hebner, who Aldridge beat in the state meet.
“The main driving force of me coming back was mainly me not wanting to sit back and watch someone else take my title,” said the Georgetown-bound Aldridge. “I worked so hard the past season to win the Meet of Champions title, and it killed me inside to think I wouldn’t have a toe on the line and not competing, watching someone take it away,” Aldridge said. “I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to three-peat, but I just wanted to get out there and try and compete.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDgisepu