The Seton Hall women’s cross country team took a hit Tuesday, as sophomore standout Christiana Rutkowski said she is likely done for the 2015 season after sustaining an IT Band injury.
An IT Band injury, according to RunnersWorld.com, is common among XC athletes.
"It occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed," according to the website. "The IT Band attaches to the knee and helps stabilize and move the joint. When the IT band isn’t working properly, movement of the knee (and, therefore, running) becomes painful."
Rutkowski injured her ankle following a stellar 2014 campaign. She said she believes that ankle injury led to the IT Band injury she is dealing with now, which has prohibited her from participating in winter training sessions and will likely hold her out of the entire 2015 season.
Head coach John Moon, however, did not rule out a 2015 return.
"The IT Band is a really stubborn injury," Rutkowski said. "There is not a direct time limit for when you will get better. It kind of depends on how your body responds to the particular treatments."
Throughout the rehab process she said she has been working closely with Moon and the Seton Hall athletic training staff.
As with every competitive athlete, Rutkowski said being sidelined with an injury and not being able to compete has been tough. However, she has tried to make the best of the situation by using it as motivation to reshape herself as an athlete and individual.
"I try to look at any setbacks as a blessing in disguise because it definitely has helped me grow, not only as an athlete but as an individual as a whole," she said. "It has taught me patience and has been testing my will and perseverance. I could have very easily given up months ago when I wasn’t seeing progress but I won’t because I owe it to coach Moon and my team and the athletic staff here. I want to represent my school."
Rutkowski said she is sure that in the end this injury will help her become an even better runner.
"I think that mentally it will take me to a whole other level," she said. "From here on out, any pain or fatigue or exhaustion I feel during a meet or workout will not compare to the pain I feel from not running at all. So I think that after this, if I can run, that’s what matters."
Despite not being able to compete or run, Rutkowski said she still wakes up for practices every morning and participates in a bike workout to simulate running. Then she undergoes rehab in the afternoon.
Moon said he feels that her presence at practices and with the team has definitely been felt in spite of her injury.
"Since day one as a freshman she has always been a great leader," he said. "She is a motivator and a cheerleader on the side. The girls respect that."
Though Moon said filling Rutkowski’s shoes is a tall order to fill for any runner, he is confident that his girls will step up while she is sidelined.
Senior leader Amanda Quaglia opened eyes this past weekend at the Monmouth XC Kick-Off, anchoring the Pirates’ team with her 11th-place finish.
Moon was also excited to see freshman Kiley Bretten finish in the top 20, and place fourth among all freshman competing in the event.
"She is just behind Christiana from when she was a freshman," he said, describing his freshman runner. "She is going to be a good runner. Each day in practice she gets better."
Moon added that her toughness and "guts" are what separate her from other freshman.
Matthew Rachek can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @matthewrachek.