Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Erica Ogle overcomes mental obstacle

December 18, 2008

Sometimes it’s not always how one finishes, but instead what one learned during that process.

During her four-and-a-half years of running at Pittsburg State University, Erica Ogle was all-conference several times. She also qualified for nationals twice in track.

“It’s nice to see that she was able to carry her career at Pitt State and have a nice career there,” said Mike Spielman, Baldwin High School cross country coach. “She was an all-conference runner and qualified for nationals a few times, too.”

In her final season this fall, Ogle not only qualified for the national cross country meet as an individual, her Gorillas squad also made it.

“I was happy with how the season ended,” Ogle said. “The last race wasn’t ideal for me, but when you look at the entire season, it was a good one to end my career on.”

Expectations for the 2004 Baldwin High School graduate were high entering her last collegiate race. However, those were dashed in a matter of seconds on the snowy course in Slippery Rock, Pa.

“I was feeling confident heading into the nationals,” Ogle said. “The national meet was an odd one. There was about five inches of snow on the ground and it was about 10 degrees outside. We weren’t really prepared for it, but I was excited for the race. That’s what I like about cross country — it’s always something different.”

Hamstring popped

Excitement was in the Pennsylvania air on that late November morning before the NCAA Div. II national cross country championship race. Except the air was a bit frosty as snow covered the terrain. Most runners wore extra layers to keep warm — not Ogle.

The Baldwin High product simply wore a headband to cover her ears. She didn’t need any additional garments for her final race as a Gorilla. Her team sneaked into the meet by placing third at the regional meet in San Antonio, Texas.

“It was huge for us,” Ogle said. “We barely qualified. The top three teams advanced out of regionals and we were third by just a few points. We were really excited to go as a team.”

As the race began to develop, Ogle found herself in the proper position for her race plan, unlike many other top competitors.

“It definitely made for a tougher race and a different style of racing,” Ogle said. “It wasn’t the fast girls who were up front, it was more tougher ones. I was in good position in the race. For the first mile, I was where I should be with the race plan that I had.”

Then it happened.

“I got tripped, fell in the snow and my hamstring popped,” Ogle said. “It kind of went downhill from there.

“I think the weather had something to do with it, because since it was that cold, it was tight from the beginning,” she said. “It didn’t feel quite right. It was the culmination of being cold, being tight and getting tripped that triggered it.”

Despite the pain in her leg and her now frozen limbs, Ogle returned to her feet and the race she worked so hard to qualify for.

“I finished the race, but it (hamstring) was definitely angry at me,” Ogle said. “It hurt for about a week after the race. It’s still not healed, but it’s getting better.”

Ogle finished 124th out of 181 runners that day. She was the fifth runner on her team, but was usually in the top spot or second at most other meets this fall.

Her hamstring injury wasn’t a new one. She hurt it during track a couple of years ago, but had always dealt with the pain in her own way. She battled through another year of track and her final campaign in cross country.

“I hurt it in track about two years ago,” Ogle said. “It’s from steeplechase. It’s the leg I jump with. It’s always kind of nagged me. We’ve even joked about having a hamstring retirement party when I’m done with this season. I had hoped it would hang on for one more race, but it didn’t. I was just glad it happened at the last meet of the year, instead of at the beginning of the year.”

Mental challenge

How does one react to an injury during the heat of competition, especially when it’s their last contest?

Well, for Ogle, it was simple. She worked for more than nearly a decade at running to reach this stage. She wasn’t going to let the pain deter her from crossing that finish line.

“It was pretty hard,” Ogle said of finishing the race. “It’s probably the most pain I’ve ever been in during a race. Usually, it’s just lactic acid pain. This was definitely a different kind of pain that I had to work through.”

In fact, she almost accepted the challenge. She missed her junior season because of an injury, but that allowed her to red-shirt that season and compete this fall.

Ogle was use to cross country trying to make her running difficult. She even enjoyed the challenges that were laid before her.

“It definitely tested me in another way,” Ogle said. “That’s one thing I like about cross country. You’re never really satisfied with yourself, because there’s always something you can get better at. It was a different kind of test.”

Time to move on

Soon, Ogle will be faced with a new challenge. She will be graduating this weekend with a Bachelor’s degree in biology. She will have a trio of minors with her degree — international studies, chemistry and physical science

“I’m ready to move on,” Ogle said.

Last spring, she took the Medical College Admission Test for the first time. She hoped to score well enough to qualify for graduate school. Unhappy with her first exam, Ogle took the MCAT a second time.

She was pleased with the second test and has been applying for schools this fall. If all goes well, she will be going through interviews this spring and hopefully receive good news by April or May.

“I did well enough to be competitive for medical school,” Ogle said. “It’s something that once you get through, you don’t want to think about it ever again.”

Ogle also has other plans for the upcoming months. She will be traveling to Nepal for a six-week medical volunteer/internship program in April. Her dream is to work on international health after medical school.

She also plans on running the ultimate race before starting her next phase of school. Ogle has a goal of running a marathon — hopefully this spring, but plans aren’t cemented yet.

“I haven’t started training yet, but I’m hoping to build on my base that I have from cross country,” Ogle said. “Then I’ll do some higher mileage and longer runs. I’m not sure how I’m going to seriously train for it yet. But I figured if I’m going to run a marathon, this spring would probably be a good time to do it before I start school again.

“I’m going to take some time off, but I hear it’s pretty hard to start back up,” she said. “I think I should keep going while I can. I’ll probably let my hamstring heal up and maybe get back into it after Christmas.”

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