Williams fights through injuries to excel for Minnesota

In each of her previous three years running for the Gophers, Lauren Williams has had injury problems.

Chris Lempesis

Heading into the 2005 season, it was a given that senior Lauren Williams would be the No. 1 runner on Minnesota’s women’s cross country team.

But it hasn’t always been so obvious. In fact, Williams’ top spot on the Gophers’ roster was questionable as early as last spring; and the culprit was a familiar one for the Edina native: injuries.

Williams’ career at Minnesota, as both a cross country and track runner, has been fraught with setbacks. The list of injuries that have forced her to miss time is extensive:

– Planter fasciitis (inflammation of a tendon in the foot) and gastrointestinal problems during her freshman year.

– Two stress fractures in her foot and a mild case of iron-deficiency anemia in her sophomore year.

– Then, after a breakout junior year in which she was the Gophers’ top runner in all six of their meets (and claimed cross country team MVP honors), Williams suffered both a partially herniated disk in her upper back and a pinched sciatic nerve in her right leg after the first indoor meet of the track season.

“I was out for three and a half months with that,” said Williams, who came to Minnesota as a walk-on. “Because I physically couldn’t use my right leg. Just couldn’t push off, couldn’t do anything; very painful. (I) went to many doctors.”

She was able to come back for the very end of the 2005 track season, including the Big Ten Championships.

This past summer, in recovering from those two injuries and also preparing for the cross country season, Williams changed up a couple of things from her usual regimen in the hopes of preventing further harm.

For one, she didn’t get a full-time job for the first summer, instead focusing her efforts on studying for the MCATs.

“I was off my feet all day long,” she said. “Where last summer I was on my feet all the time and out in the sun all the time.”

This extra rest allowed her to run more, though she did dial it down toward the end of the summer so she wouldn’t be too worn out for the start of the season.

While the season is still young, these changes are proving to be beneficial. Williams took first at the Oz Memorial Run on Sept. 10.

Fellow senior Jen Hess said she’s not surprised how Williams has done despite the injuries.

“Lauren’s just somebody that’s so determined to do things right,” she said, “and has her goals so in focus and everything in her life so ordered that it’s just obvious that she’d be successful in whatever she did.”

While that fact might not have been apparent before, with a clean bill of health, it is now.

“Some people go out the side door,” coach Gary Wilson said. “And then some people walk through the front door and they go ‘OK, I’m going to do this and I can do it’ and she’s one of those kids.”