Cross country might not feature the physical contact of sports such as football, but injuries are a way of life. Local runners sidelined for substantial parts of this season include a former Southern Section Div. I champion, top City Section contender and a Daily News All-Area selection. Most coaches can list a handful of runners on their teams suffering from one injury or another. “You’re never injury-free,” said Canyon of Canyon Country coach Paul Broneer. “If you are, you haven’t pushed (your team) hard enough.” Overtraining, poor diet, incorrect form, genetics and improper shoes contribute to common injuries such as tendinitis, shin splints and stress fractures. High school runners are more susceptible to getting hurt because their bones grow faster than their muscles. This puts stress on tendons, and the muscles are not strong enough to support the larger, heavier bone, said Dr. Andrew Einhorn, who will stage a Southern Section-sponsored seminar on overuse and injury in youth sports next February. Andrea Neipp didn’t just run to the 1996 state Div. I cross-country title. She seemed, her coach at Highland High in Palmdale said, to float above the ground. Neipp competed just once during her career at Brigham Young University. She was required to log about 70 miles per week in college, although John Johnston, the Highland coach, had alerted BYU coaches that Neipp was prone to injury if she ran much more than 30. “It’s a shame,” Johnston said. “She was such a beautiful runner.” Three-quarters of cross-country injuries are minor, requiring fewer than five days’ rest, according to a 2000 study conducted in Washington state. “It seems like everyone has some aches and pains,” said Royal of Simi Valley’s Kevin Sullivan, who runs for the nation’s third-ranked boys’ team. “Most people just forget about it and race fine.” The mental impact of injuries can exceed the physical one. Highland’s Alyssa Craft, the 2004 Daily News Newcomer of the Year, has competed in only a couple of junior-varsity races because of a series of leg injuries this season. She said she doesn’t have her usual desire to succeed because she’s frustrated by slower times. “They think, ‘I’m not going to be sharp, and I’m not going to do well,” Oak Park coach Kevin Smith said. “That dominates their thoughts and becomes reality.” More serious injuries, such as stress fractures and bone spurs, can require surgery. Problems also occur when runners try to run through a minor injury. It’s why Sullivan couldn’t participate in Royal of Simi Valley’s 2004 Div. I state championship victory. He chipped a bone in his foot that summer in a non-running incident. He changed his stride to compensate for the pain, causing an injury to a group of fibers that runs along the outside of the thigh. “I think I could’ve avoided all my injuries if I’d been cautious,” he said. Birmingham of Lake Balboa’s Jennifer Hernandez, one of the City Section’s top runners, hadn’t raced in more than a month because of a stress fracture, spending much of that time doing pool workouts and other modified training. She finished fourth in the large-schools race at Saturday’s Santa Clarita Valley Invitational despite the layoff. Female runners are injured once per 60 practices or meets, and boys suffer an injury every 91 runs, according to the Washington study. Teams run about 90 times a season, with training stretching from mid-July to November. “You’re always going to have the blisters, the pain in the hips and knees,” Broneer said. “That comes with the territory. The thing is you don’t want to make them worse.” Sean Martin, (818) 713-3607 [email protected] INJURED LIST Area cross country notables who have missed substantial time because of injuries: Andrea Bischop, Canyon She was supposed to lead the No. 2 Cowboys but has competed in only one meet. Alyssa Craft, Highland The 2004 Daily News Newcomer of the Year made her season debut in a JV race last week. Ted Price, Camarillo Expected to return in time to run for a third straight Ventura County title. Brooke Russell, Hart The 2003 Southern Section Div. I champ hasn’t raced for the Indians. Lauren Von Der Ahe, Flintridge Prep Leader of one of the state’s top Div. V programs missed season’s first month. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!