Steve Vedder | the Grand Rapids Press, September 13, 2011 8 a.m.
GUN LAKE — there was a time when Kassidy Clark thought she might have to walk away from what had been a promising cross country career, but she loved the sport too much to quit.
So after finishing 14th in the state meet as a freshman, the East Grand Rapids senior refused to let two devastating injuries drive her away from cross country. she rehabbed a pair of hip injuries, regained her health this summer and won a race for the first time in her career when she finished atop the Thornapple Division of Monday’s TK Invitational with a time of 19 minutes, 13 seconds.
The win completes a long comeback that includes rebounding from an injury caused by a growth plate not being closed in her hip as a sophomore. the following year, Clark suffered a stress fracture in her hip. the injuries caused her to miss half of her sophomore year and all but two meets of her junior year. Physical therapists suggested biomechanics, such as rollerblading and hours of work in the pool, to rehab her hip.
Clark, who said her legs had to be repositioned, said there were times when she thought competitive running was at an end.
“it was really hard. Mentally, I wasn’t too strong with it,” she said. “But I worked hard, and here I am,” she said.
“I struggled, but I could never give it up.”
Clark’s first-place finish helped the Pioneers win the meet with 35 points. Runner up Hamilton had 57.
Clark looked as if she had a promising future after making all-state as a freshman. she missed the first half of her sophomore year before eventually finishing 27th overall at state (21st in team scoring).
After being on crutches for last year’s TK Invitational, she came back at the end of the season, but suffered a case of hives on the eve of the regional and wasn’t 100 percent.
She had the third-best time for the Pioneers and finished 47th overall at the state meet, helping the Pioneers place third.
After putting in countless rehab hours, Clark ran a handful of 5K races this summer, averaged about 30 miles per week in training and, now, considers herself 100 percent healthy. she finished fourth in the Pioneer Classic to open the season, third at the OK White/Black Invitational and tied teammate Jessie Baloga for third in the first conference jamboree of the season.
“My goal is to run with Jessie,” Clark said of her all-state teammate. “I didn’t have much confidence because, sometimes, I think I’m going to get injured again. But (today) boosts my confidence.”
Clark’s mother, Kim Bernard, said her daughter, whose goals include running in college and helping the Pioneers to a fifth state title since 2003, persevered in her battle to continue running.
“We tried everything we could because we know she has a love of running, but a time comes when you worry you’re doing more harm than good,” she said. “(But) she wanted to run.”
Pioneers coach Nick Hopkins said it was tough watching Clark struggle with her injuries.
“she has such an inner drive and she was so successful as a freshman,” Hopkins said. “she had a boatload of potential and, then, she had the setbacks. it was so painful to watch her on the sidelines for two years. she did everything in her power to come back.”
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