Back on comeback trail

Track and field: North Carroll senior Colleen Lawson, after undergoing knee surgery, is looking to regain her state championship form.

April 15, 2001|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Colleen Lawson's knee pain is gone. The North Carroll senior's confidence and endurance are back.

Together, that spells trouble for other distance runners in Carroll County and throughout the state. Lawson's comeback from knee surgery a year ago is progressing rapidly toward completion.

She won the Knight's Invitational 3,000-meter race last Tuesday, and on April 6, she won the 3,200 and 1,600 at the Westminster Invitational.

Her times are not quite back to what they were before the injury, but the two-time state Class 3A cross country champion and former 3,200 outdoor state champion is eyeing another state championship in the 3,200.

If it doesn't happen, it won't be from a lack of effort.

"She does all that you ask and then every day puts in extra time and effort," girls track coach Angie Jones said. "She's a good example of a good work ethic and brings a wonderful attitude to the team. She'll be missed after this season."

Jones said she's certain that Lawson's times will get back down. "She's looking very strong."

Lawson was coming off her second straight Class 3A cross country championship in the fall of 2000, after losing just one race all season. She decided to compete in the Foot Locker Northeastern Regions in New York, and that's where her career hit a snag.

"A girl pushed me and I fell and hurt my knee," Lawson said. The incident occurred at the 2-mile mark in a wooded area.

The injury did not immediately sideline Lawson, who ran part of the indoor track season, but the pain eventually forced her to stop and seek medical help. Before long, she underwent arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus in her right knee, and she was on crutches when the Panthers won the regional indoor championship.

"I felt pretty bad because I wanted to run," she said.

Lawson, 5 feet 4 and 98 pounds, did recover enough to run the last two weeks of the outdoor season and qualify again for the 3,200, but without proper conditioning she finished eighth in the race she had won the previous year.

Her comeback also did not include a third state cross country title last fall.

"She's not quite back, but hopefully she'll peak at the right time," said her father, John Lawson. "Her form is starting to come back, and her mental attitude is much better. We're seeing some of that fire again. The toughest part was getting her confidence back."

Like several other premier female distance runners such as Tenke Zoltani of Dulaney and Lee McDuff of River Hill, Lawson aspired to play high school soccer during her elementary school and middle school years.

She made the varsity soccer team in her freshman season. After a successful outdoor track season in which she finished second in the county 3,200 championship and third in the 1,600, Lawson switched to cross country.

"A couple of my friends told me I'd do well in cross country," she said. "I like running because it helps me feel more healthy and it's something not everyone can do."

Lawson, who prefers a front-running style, blew away the field in her first cross country race and never looked back to soccer.

"She was always 90-minute match-fit in soccer, so it doesn't surprise me that she has endurance," John Lawson said. "She also has heart and doesn't like to lose. She tries to excel at everything she does."

Lawson writes for her school newspaper, Panther Tales, has a 4.0 grade-point average and will attend Western Maryland College. She'll continue running and will major in education and exercise science.

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