DECATUR — Jackson Stewart knows he’ll be in pain Saturday night. But that’s not going to stop him from going all out Saturday morning.
Stewart, a St. Teresa junior, will compete in Saturday’s Class 1A boys state cross country meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria despite struggling pain caused by Osgood-Schlatter — a painful condition that affects children experiencing growing spurts who play sports with repetitive stress. It’s caused by a buildup of calcium where the patella tendon meets up with the shin, which develops a painful bump.
“It’s not uncommon in guys, and he recently hit a growth spurt and it flared up,” St. Teresa coach Todd Vohland said. “It’s something he’s battled. We were really worried before sectionals. He barely practiced. He’s been able to do more this week. He’s still not 100 percent, but he’s better than last week.”
Stewart, who finished 15th at the state meet last year, said the pain doesn’t bother him while he’s running, but he’ll pay for it afterward.
“During the meet I don’t really feel it — I don’t pay attention to it,” Stewart said. “But after the meet, I’ll have a lot of pain.”
The Osgood-Schlatter, in his first two years of cross country, had been more of an issue early in the season. But this year it acted up at exactly the wrong time.
“It was something that I first started experiencing in middle school playing soccer,” Stewart said. “It’s something I’ve been battling ever since.
“This year, it just came at a time I really didn’t want to be injured. There are stretches I can do to help. I wear a brace and take anti-inflammatories. I just really don’t want to let it affect how I perform.”
Stewart has had to keep his training at a minimum because of the pain, which also kept him from putting in the offseason mileage he was hoping to log in preparation. But the state meet means a lot to him. Despite the pain, his goals are lofty — a top-10 finish and under 15:20.
“I’d never been to the state course before last year — it was a different atmosphere than any other meet we’d had,” Stewart said. “I didn’t really think I could compete with all those great runners, but I did. It was a great experience. From then on, getting back here has been something I’ve wanted to accomplish. It drives me.”
Also running at the state meet for St. Teresa on Saturday will be Veronica Hein, who is competing in the Class 1A girls meet.
“Top 20 or even top 15 are legit goals for her if she runs well,” Vohland said. “There’s an amazing amount of competition there, but she’s certainly capable of it.”