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MAKING A RUN AT HER INJURIES SPERRY OVERCOMING MALADIES.

Byline: Kirby Lee Special to the Daily News

Caren Sperry knows about stress fractures, buckle fractures and evulsion fractures. The Moorpark College cross country runner has suffered all of them throughout her athletic career.

But this fall, the only thing that has been broken by the 2002 Simi Valley High graduate are personal bests. Sperry, who will compete in the Western State Conference finals in Santa Maria on Tuesday, is coming off a victory in the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational last Friday.

In September, Sperry won the Lou Vasquez Invitational at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and the Golden West Invitational at Central Park in Huntington Beach.

``I've always had high expectations and I am used to excelling,'' Sperry said. ``I am thrilled to get to this point. I've come a long way.''

Getting to the starting line was a major accomplishment for Sperry at Simi Valley. She was injured for all but her freshman season in track and her senior cross country season.

Among Sperry's maladies were evulsion fractures of her right and left iliac crest in her hips as a freshman and a sophomore. As a junior, Sperry had a buckle fracture in her left shin. Sperry missed her senior track season with four stress fractures in her lower legs.

``I thought that maybe I just have fragile bones and just shouldn't run,' Sperry said. ``I love to do this but maybe this isn't for me. I would get done with an injury and try again, and over and over.''

Her performances in the short span that she was able to run, however, earned her a scholarship to Cal State San Marcos to run under coach Steve Scott, the American record holder in the mile.

The multitude of injuries and numerous X-rays and bone scans over the years led Sperry to major in kinesiology with an emphasis on exercise science.

``I asked a lot of questions going to the doctor's office and not understanding my injuries,'' Sperry said. ``I learned a lot about my bones looking at my X-rays like, 'Oh, there's a little crack.' It sparked an interest how everything works and how and why you get hurt.''

Moorpark coach Doni Greene believes Sperry's future could be in coaching. Before the Mt. SAC Invitational, Sperry discussed race strategy with her teammates. After finishing the race, Sperry ran back on the course to offer encouragement.

Sperry's self-confidence was at a low during her freshman year at San Marcos. She ran cross country, but missed the track season because of an ankle injury. Coupled by disappointment and being homesick, Sperry moved back to Simi Valley after her freshman year at San Marcos to enroll at Moorpark College.

Injuries, however, continued to follow Sperry at Moorpark. She stopped training completely because of sore shins that sidelined her for the 2003 cross country season.

``I knew what the injury was and decided to back off and rest,'' Sperry said.

Rest appears to have been the best remedy along with an overhaul of Sperry's running form. Moorpark assistant coach Eleazar Hernandez worked over a two-month period to shorten Sperry's stride to soften the impact on her lower legs and improve her turnover.

Sperry was injury-free during track, but it took a while for her turnover to come around. Sperry, however, dropped nearly a minute off her 1,500-meter time during the season to 4 minutes, 42 seconds and finished fourth in the state JC track finals.

``She has always been talented, but the main thing for me was not to get her hurt,'' Hernandez said. ``The main thing is to be healthy, and the rest would come around.''

The biggest hope for Moorpark is that Sperry will stick around for the 2005 track season rather than transfer to a four-year university. A lot might hinge on college offers based upon Sperry's performance in the Southern California finals in Cuesta on Nov. 6 and the state championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 20.

Sperry, who has been on the dean's list every semester at Moorpark, earned an associate of arts degree in the spring. She has completed most of the course work available at Moorpark for her major.

``Everything is up in the air,'' Sperry said. ``I loved (San Marcos) but I wasn't ready for it yet. The atmosphere at Moorpark is right here. It's helped me bloom and grow. It's been a good experience to go out there and compete.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

After battling injuries, Moorpark College runner Caren Sperry has found success.

Kirby Lee/Special to the Daily News
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 24, 2004
Words:764
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