With about 100 meters to go at last year’s New Prairie Girls Cross Country Semistate, Hobart’s Celena Guerrero was on the verge of a top-10 finish and another phenomenal run to the state finals.
Then her legs tightened up and she ran in slow motion through a nightmare as 40 or so energetic runners passed her on the way to the chute.
“I like died,” Guerrero said. “I could not move. I was still running, but I was going slower than if I was walking.”
Strangers were in tears. Random fans told her she was an inspiration.
Nonetheless her shot at another state berth had bypassed her.
Guerrero has overcome several injuries since finishing 20th at state as a freshman, second-best among ninth-graders that year. Yet she’s matured with each setback.
Hers is a classic tale of an injured phenom; however, this multi-act play is far from over.
Guerrero, a junior this fall, showed that last Saturday when she finished second individually in the AA Division (large school) race at the Gavit Invitational, her first big race since the 2011 semistate.
“With each race, I think her confidence is increasing,” Hobart coach Ty Artherfults said. “Having nine to 10 months where she didn’t have an opportunity to run any races, getting back into it might take some time, but at this point now, there’s no major rush. We still have a good six weeks before we get to crunch time.”
Guerrero has suffered three stress fractures since that epic freshman run, but her dad is a Lew Wallace grad, and she has the grit of the typical Hobart or region athlete.
“I think with all the injuries I’ve had and time I’ve had to sit out, it’s motivated me,” Guerrero said. “Some days you feel lazy. Everyone does. Now I think of all the time I sat wishing I could run.”
By the end of an eventful freshman year that included cross country, basketball and track, she developed pain in her left knee due to bursitis. She continued to run with a limp, but that caused a stress fracture in the middle of her left tibia.
After finishing the final “Twilight” novel in the Stephenie Meyer series while laid up, she was back for a promising sophomore cross country season that started slowly and peaked right around four kilometers into the semistate.
Just before the start of indoor track season earlier this year, after Guerrero trained hard on the streets and kept up with Hobart’s male distance runners, doctors found stress fractures in both her lower legs. She was relegated to homework or "Call of
Duty: Black Ops" on Xbox from March through June.
Rehabilitation included Theraband work and therapy for her adversely affected hips, coupled with healthy amounts of milk and vitamins. Now, with a stable of talented teammates, Guerrero and the Brickies are back on the road to contention.
“It took a lot of patience and probably wasn’t easy for her,” said Artherhults, who was happy that Guerrero showed support and helped out at track meets.
“She always sets an example when it comes to work ethic. From warm-ups on, she’s always out front being a leader. She’s very team-oriented and has the other girls working hard.”
Guerrero now knows the tortoise sometimes beats the hare. College scholarships and long-term health outweigh the need to shift into overdrive at the next weekend invite.
“I don’t want to go too hard right now,” Guerrero said. “I’m going to keep my miles under control and stay on the grass as much as I can.
Obviously I want to win when I can, but I’ve got to concentrate on conference, sectionals and state.”