Ilhyung Lee is professor of law at MU. He and his family follow the Tigers’ intercollegiate athletics teams.
Cross country is a non-contact sport. But anyone who has competed in the event will likely say that when runners are bunched together, some jostling or bumping is possible. Elbows, feet and knees can get tangled. Sometimes, it gets much worse.
Kaitlyn Fischer is a member of the University of Missouri cross country and track and field teams. Last November, just three months after enrolling as a freshman student, she competed in the NCAA Division I cross country national championship, held in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was Missouri’s lone representative in the competition that day.
At the Missouri Opener on Friday, January 10, 2014, the season opener for the Tigers’ indoor track and field team, Fischer shared her thoughts on that memorable day in Indiana.
“It was really cold,” she recounted. Coaches urged the freshman runner to keep her coat on until just before the beginning of the race. There was some confusion and congestion where individual qualifiers not running with their teams were to line up. A few minutes after the starting gun, “I was in a pretty good spot, and I was trying to get in a better spot.” Then a bit later, “I got stepped on.” Standing just 5 feet, 1 inch in height, Fischer is usually one of the smallest participants in any race. Her slender frame did not offer enough mass to repel the contact. Fischer fell to the ground. She caught the metal spikes of more runners. It was a trampling.
“You just have to make best of the situation and try not to let it get to you, as hard as that might be,” she said in retrospect.
It is the instinct of a champion to get up and catch the lead pack. Before coming to MU, Fischer was a state champion in cross country and distance events in track at Herculaneum High School, about 30 miles south of St. Louis. In Terre Haute, she recovered, and ran the rest of the 6 kilometer course, with blood dripping down from her left knee. She crossed the finish line at 21:10.8, for 79th place out of a field of 253 runners. Immediately taken to the medical tent, Fischer was advised to get stitches. She declined. “I’m scared of needles,” she said, with a laugh.
Does Missouri’s national finalist ever wonder how she would have fared in the race if she was not knocked down? “I think about it,” she conceded. But “I’m building up for a new season.” Although she did not participate in the Tigers’ season opener, Fischer will compete in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters during the indoor season. The next home meet is the Missouri Invitational, on February 7. The outdoor season begins in late March.
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