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G-LR-CL cross country runner shows toughness, leadership in return from injury

"I'm gonna finish this out. If they break, they break." Those were George-Little Rock-Central Lyon junior cross country runner Gable Sieperda's words to his coach last year before the Iowa State Cross Country Championships. Four weeks before stat...

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ADAM WATTS / DAILY GLOBE George-Little Rock-Central Lyon cross country runner Gable Sieperda (red shorts) leads his teammates in practice laps.
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“I’m gonna finish this out. If they break, they break.”

Those were George-Little Rock-Central Lyon junior cross country runner Gable Sieperda’s words to his coach last year before the Iowa State Cross Country Championships. Four weeks before state, he found out he had stress fractures in both shins and risked snapping his legs in two by running. But he refused to quit.

“We did sit down with him and say, ‘you’re entering the danger zone of running. I’ve known kids who’ve run on stress fractures and actually broken their legs and never came back to running,’” G-LR-CL head cross country coach Curt Fiedler said. “It came down to a decision between him and his family to do that. As a coach, I can just say, ‘should we let him continue?’ We were two weeks away from the state meet and he wanted to finish it out. And he did it in pretty good fashion.”

Sieperda finished sixth at the state championships last fall, while running through the injuries. Earlier in the season, he was ranked No. 1 in the state by the Iowa Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches, and was coming off a 3,200 meter state championship in track the previous spring. He was driven to continue -- no matter how much pain he felt.

“I’d wear a boot around before the meet, Sieperda said. “And then I’d take it off to run the meet, and then put the boot back on.”

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Leading up to the injury, he never let on that he was in such severe pain until he woke up one morning and couldn’t walk.

“I got up in the morning and blood was just rushing to my shins,” Sieperda said. “And I had to crawl to the bathroom. So I was like, ‘This isn’t normal. Something’s wrong.’ I went and got MRIs on it and they told me I had bilateral fractures in both of my shins.”

Following the state meet, Sieperda took five months off from running to heal before the spring track season. That meant taking the winter off from wrestling, which has his primary sport until his freshman year of high school. His focus shifted to running when an elbow injury kept him out of wrestling, and the only thing he could do to stay active was run. He found that he enjoyed it and that he was pretty good at it.

“When I was a kid, I did national wrestling camps and things,” Sieperda said. “Then eighth grade year, I broke my elbow. So I took the year off from wrestling, and I started running on the treadmill to stay in shape. I just started to love it.”

After the five month lay off, and recovered from his injuries, the reigning 3,200 meter champ was ready to come back to defend his crown.

And then after the Sioux City Relays in April, it happened again.

“I won the Sioux City Relays mile and then the day after that, I woke up and I couldn’t even walk or put on my pants,” Sieperda said. “So we went in the next day and got an MRI and boom -- bilateral stress fractures in the growth plates in my hips. Then I did the same stupid thing and didn’t stop, and tried to run through it. I actually qualified for state in the two mile on bilateral stress fractured hips.”

He finished 22nd at the state meet while running through the injury.

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He took the summer off from running again, and spent his time in the gym with the football team, adding muscle. He hopes that adding some muscle to his frame will help to support his bones a bit better, and reduce the wear and tear on his body. He also has added extra calcium into his diet, fearing that a calcium deficiency has led to his injuries.

Learning from his previous experiences, he is taking his recovery process slowly this fall. He skipped the first two cross country meets, before taking second place to his teammate Joe Anderson in his first meet back.

“The first day of practice this year was the first time I actually ran,” he said. “Normally everybody is building up mileage, like 30 or 40 miles. And I kinda just started that. I’m at 27 miles per week right now.”

He is still building up his stamina, but Sieperda says his body is back to 100 percent. And his coach is happy to have his team leader back.

“He’s such a leader for us,” Fiedler said. “He’s such a model for our program -- and he’s just a junior. That’s the example in him. He’s a humble kid. He doesn’t want to be in the limelight, but he wants the team to be a part of that whole thing.”

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