This is a story from just over the border about how a runner dealt with pain and adversity over the weekend.
Abbey Zastrow of Arcadia High School, located a few minutes across the Minnesota border in southwestern Wisconsin, entered her senior year state track meet as the favorite to win the 400 and 200-meter runs. Her goal, more than anything, was to break a state record in the 400 that has stood for 32 years. Her focus on the record was so strong that she didn't participate in two other events -- the 100 and the long jump -- to focus on the 400. Her sectional qualifying time was 1/100th of a second from the 1985 record.
As Zastrow, the defending Wisconsin 400-meter champ in her class, explained to John Casper Jr. of the Winona Daily News: “I kind of knew all season I’d be running by myself. So I thought I’ll go for it. It’s my last year. I’m going to go out with a bang.”
On Friday, Zastrow won her qualifying heat easily -- by 1.3 seconds.
On Saturday, everything fell apart.
She hurt her hamstring midway through the race. By the last 50 meters, Zastrow could no longer run. She walked to the finish, about 30 seconds behind the top finishers in front of the 8,000 or so people who were at the state meet in LaCrosse
The moment she had to stop running was captured by Winona Daily News photographer Rory O'Driscoll.
“It really sucks,” Zastrow told Casper. “All season my legs were fine. I almost ran the state record at sectionals. Coming into (the final) I was excited. My coach said that he could tell something is wrong with about 150 meters left. My right leg just pulled up, and ...”
“You train all season for one race and it’s just thrown out the window.”
But it really wasn't. Zastrow then made a statement that spoke louder than words. After working with a trainer and jogging a bit, Zastrow took the starting line for the 200-meter final. She couldn't use the starting block and wore regular running shoes instead of spikes to lessen the pain. Winning a medal wasn't the point.
“It was my last high school race,” she said. “I qualified. It’s something to be proud of. I wanted to run it out.”
Again, Zastrom finished last -- about six seconds behind the winners. As Casper, who has covered track in Minnesota and Wisconsin for more than a decade, wrote: "It was perhaps the most inspiring 10th-place finish in (Wisconsin) state track and field meet history."
And the last high school race won't be her last race. Zastrow is going to The University of Mary in North Dakota on a track scholarship. The Division II school is in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which means she'll likely be competing against MSU-Mankato, UMD and other Minnesota runs for the next few years.
Not that Zastrow needs to prove anything to anyone, but the ending of her high school career will provide motivation for her college years.
“It’s going to push me in college,” she said. “This is something you don’t want to end on. This will push me to strive and hit my goals so I don’t feel this devastation again.”