Part of the battle with a sport like cross country is staying healthy and injury-free. Francesco Maiorca appreciates that about as well as anyone.
The Avon Lake senior has endured quite a bit the last two years. In 2010, Maiorca came down with a late-season case of swine flu. He gamely tried to give it a shot at the Southwestern Conference meet but became sick to his stomach several times throughout the race.
Just how ill? Maiorca finished 55th out of 56 runners in 20:03.94 for the 5K. Several runners pat the Shoremen runner on the back out of sympathy as they went past.
The illness forced Maiorca to shut it down the remainder of his season, causing him to miss both districts and regionals. It also hurt Avon Lake’s state chances as the Shoremen missed a state berth at regionals by three points.
As bad as the swine flu was, what transpired Maiorca’s junior year was even scarier.
He suffered a leg bruise that developed into myositis ossification, which is the calcification of bone at the site of the injured muscle.
Maiorca suffered the injury to his left quadricep when he took a kneecap blow to the leg while driving with the ball in a pick-up game of basketball at cross country camp in Colorado.
It was a tough setback. Maiorca had put in a great summer of training. He tried to run through the injury for a few days before ultimately telling coach Rob Juergens what had happened and went to a doctor.
“At first I wasn’t even able to run in the pool,” Maiorca said. “I had to shut it down totally for five weeks. Three weeks before conference I was finally allowed to run in the pool and go on the bike. That really helped.”
Maiorca made it back into the lineup in time for the SWC open Oct. 16, where he finished second in a time of 18:17.
It could have developed into something much more serious.
“The doctor told me that if the calcification hadn’t cleared up that I could have missed the remainder of cross country season and possibly also even track season,” said Maiorca, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 150 pounds. “The doctor said that it cleared up faster than it normally does so I was very happy with how that turned out. I got to run at the state meet so that definitely was a plus.”
Avon Lake went on to finish second at the Elyria District, fourth at the Tiffin Regional and 10th at the state meet. It was the Shoremen’s first trip to the Big Dance since 1996.
Maiorca’s performances in three straight open races earned spot back onto the varsity for regionals and state. He finished 49th at regionals in 16:48.08 and 114th at state (17:00.4) as the team’s No. 6 runner.
“My mom (Kris) is a physical therapist,” said Maiorca. “We checked online at several different treatments, but the doctor said that only definite (treatment) is rest. They gave me Advil for the swelling, in combination with ice and heat. We iced it all the time. We stayed with the plan that the doctor told me.”
Maiorca had a great track season last spring and has raced very well this fall. He ran 4:22.77 in the 1,600 at conference for a second place and was a regional-qualifier. As the Shoremen’s No. 3 runner this fall, he was fifth (16:38.0) at the Avon Lake Earlybird and sixth (16:58.1) at the SWC Preview. His quickest time this season has been 16:18.08 at the Tiffin Carnival where he finished 16th.
“He’s a good talent,” said Juergens. “He’s doing the work and wants to do well. It’s been a big turnaround, (but) it’s not a big surprise. It’s a matter of him being healthy and being able to compete.”
Maiorca finished eighth at Saturday’s SWC championships with a time of 17:46.0 as he helped Avon Lake to win its third straight conference championship.
“I’m looking forward to districts,” said Maiorca, who is being recruited by Ohio State, Miami of Ohio, Butler and Ohio Northern. “Our team is looking great. We’re in a very good position to compete at the state level.
“After what I’ve been through it’s really made me appreciate the sport itself and how important it is in my life. It’s almost depressing not to be able to run. Coach Juergens got me through a lot. He reminded me to keep my head up and to be ready for the next opportunity. Last year was an extraordinary experience.”
Contact Paul Heyse at 440-329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.