Toe dislocated at home trips Santucci's goals for winter Indoor track: Top Westminster runner was shooting for 3,000-meter title, but now he may have to rest and plan for track in the spring.

January 23, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jason Santucci made quite an impression on the Westminster running program after moving here from Virginia last summer. The junior won the county, region and state championships as the Owls captured their second straight Class 4A state crown.

Santucci had similar plans for the indoor season. He hoped to dominate in the 3,000 meters and make a similar sweep of the big races. Despite the fact that Westminster didn't receive county approval to run an indoor track program until a month after other teams had started, Santucci continued to train on his own and remained in top form.

Then Santucci decided to play soccer in the house one night with his sister. Trying to kick a ball, Santucci smashed his foot into a wall, dislocating the big toe on his right foot. The injury kept him out two weeks, and although he's been running for the last few weeks, the comeback has proved arduous.

The injury occurred just before the holidays, but Santucci began practicing with the team again on Jan. 5. But even though he could run again, the injury caused the junior other problems.

"It's messed up my stride," said Santucci. "I'm compensating for the pain in my foot and it's causing problems for my left hamstring."

The hamstring has been a nightmare in recent days for Santucci.

Westminster made its debut last Saturday in the National Guard Meet in Baltimore, and even though Santucci finished a respectable 11th in the 1,500 (just 14 seconds behind), the hamstring was sore.

Santucci said the pain has been so severe in recent days that putting on shoes has been nearly impossible. He continues to run, though, and ice the injury while stretching the hamstring for up to 30 minutes daily. But improvement has been minimal.

He is to see a doctor next week and fears being told to sit for a week or two. That would disappoint Santucci in one way, because it would set his training back even farther and most likely eliminate him from contention for the region or state meets.

But the junior said he would just focus, then, on getting better for outdoor track in March.

Santucci laughs sheepishly about the injury, which is the kind that just requires time to heal.

"The goal I set for cross country was to win the states," said Santucci, the county Runner of the Year and an All-Metro pick. "My goal in indoor was to become the 3,000-meter champion. I don't want to settle for something like sixth place."

Westminster coach Jim Shank and Santucci said the same thing -- that Westminster's late start makes things tougher for the junior. But Shank wants Santucci to be cautious and not over-extend himself.

"He has to realize that everyone else has four or five meets under their belts already, and we've done just one," said Shank. "All the training in the world won't replace the experience of running in a meet."

And running in an indoor track meet is an experience in itself. Sometimes resembling the lane in a basketball game, races include jostling, shoving and elbows being thrown about. It's something that new runners have to adjust to and something Santucci is working on.

Shank said Santucci got knocked around a bit in the National Guard meet race. In addition, the 1,500 isn't really Santucci's race. It's more of a speed race, and Santucci was just using it to continue working on getting in shape for the 3,000.

"Indoor track is a physical sport," said Shank. "He's been putting in some good work but looked a little inexperienced. I think it [the bumping] took him out of his race."

For now, Santucci hopes time will heal his wounds.

He also added, laughing, he'll stick to playing soccer outdoors from now on.

Phone in statistics

The Baltimore Sun compiles boys and girls individual basketball statistics and indoor track and field top performances every Sunday during the winter season. Coaches or statisticians should call between 4-6 p.m. at 410-332-6200 or long distance 1-800-829-8000, extension 6200.

Top performances also can be faxed to 410-783-2518.

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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