Missoula Hellgate senior Chris Herrick took his lead, a few stride’s worth already, before the group of runners had even exited the first turn in the 1,600-meter run Thursday at Missoula’s Greg Rice track and field city meet. Four minutes and change later, he finish a full 100 meters ahead of the nearest competitor.
It’s safe to say the University of Colorado-bound distance runner is experiencing no ill effects from the injury that took away the most meaningful section of his final high school cross country season.
This Knight is all healed up and hoping to make up for lost time.
“Everything’s been going really well,” Herrick said from Missoula County Stadium on Thursday. “I definitely have a lot of motivation going into track (season). Mainly it’s just great to be back running and training with teammates.”
Two weeks before the State AA cross country meet, a race held right in Herrick’s backyard at the University of Montana Golf Course, a nagging pain in his right leg turned out to be a tibia stress fracture. He could only watch as his Knights finished fourth at state, wondering what could have been had he had his legs under him.
The ensuing winter was a tough one for the usually active Herrick, who sat quietly through the better part of the next two months following the Oct. 26 state meet on the mend.
“I spent a lot more time in my house and stuff, just sitting around,” said Herrick with chuckle, adding about four years have likely passed since the last time he’d gone so long without running.
The worst part of it all? Such an untimely but short-term injury nearly had some major long-term consequences on his collegiate future.
“When I got my injury, a lot of doors closed as far as colleges,” Herrick explained. “I wasn’t running any more and it’s hard to really recruit someone accurately based off of having no results. Colorado was always been very supportive and offered a visit in November.”
The Buffaloes kept their interest and Herrick picked Boulder, Colorado, in February as his landing spot to run college cross country this fall. It wasn’t too tough of a decision to make either; Colorado was the top choice for Herrick anyway.
The Buffs claimed the NCAA cross country national championship in late November. The team also features local connections Adam Peterman (Hellgate class of 2013) and Zach Perrin (Flathead class of 2013) on its roster.
That’s a lot to live up to at the next level, but for now Herrick is focused on ending his senior track season the way he couldn’t during cross country in the fall. He finished Thursday’s 1,600 in 4:31.71, not a particularly fast time, but the 3,200 is more his style.
He has the fastest 2-mile of any Montana runner this spring at 9:21.80. And now that those speedsters Peterman and Perrin are out of the picture, Herrick has his sights trained on snaring this year’s State AA gold.
That should help ease any lingering pain from cross country season.