Life as a collegiate track and field athlete is grueling.
Between the numerous rigorous workouts athletes put their bodies through, strength training, injury prevention (or prehab, as I used to call it) and fulfilling duties as a student first and foremost, it’s not an easy life.
I know firsthand how difficult it can become when an injury pops up, and even worse, when the injuries begin to pile up.
My own promising career was derailed by a series of injuries – first Achilles tendinitis, then a stress reaction in my L5 vertebrae, followed by a bruised heel and then lingering back problems that still bother me to this day, stemming from the initial back injury.
That’s why it was so satisfying for me to see former Mount Ayr state champion Noah Larsen back on the blue oval at the Drake Relays this past weekend, winning a Drake Relays title.
Noah’s journey hasn’t been all that different from mine. The one big difference is he’s been able to overcome his injuries and find success on the track.
“Just having crazy things happen to me and having setbacks, going all the way back to senior year of cross country and getting that first stress fracture,” he said. “Mentally, as a young kid, I did not handle that well at all. I was kind of mad at everybody and felt like I got cheated.”
Noah was among the favorites to win the 2013 Class 1A State Cross Country championship, but dropped out of the race within the first mile because of a foot injury. It turned out to be a stress fracture.
Following Mount Ayr’s 2014 state track championship, I detailed Noah’s road back from that injury in a feature story after he won three state titles that spring for the Raiders.
“I look back to a half mile into his senior season of the State Cross Country Meet, here’s a kid who had to pull out of a race,” Mount Ayr head boys track coach Brad Elliott said. “For most of us, that might be it.”
Following high school, Noah went to Iowa Central Community College and turned himself into one of JUCO’s premier middle distance runners.
But, the injury bug struck once again. Noah has learned how to deal with those injuries now, though. And even as the injuries are sometimes bizarre, he hasn’t allowed them to faze him.
“Going to college, my faith has grown a lot, so I’ve been able to take those setbacks as they come and realize that it’s all kind of part of the plan,” Noah said Friday at the Drake Relays. “I had another stress fracture at Iowa Central and that one went a little better. I battled that all of last year in my foot. I started off the [2017-18 indoor] season with a concussion at a track meet, which like, how does that even happen? That concussion, it was fine. It is what it is.”
Noah took a few weeks off to allow his brain to heal and got back to work. He went on to finish 15th in the 800 at the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships.
He is set to compete in the MIAA Outdoor Championships this weekend in Kearney, Nebraska, where he hopes to run sub-1:50 in the 800 to help him qualify for outdoor nationals. He’s also hoping Central Missouri’s 4x400 relay team can qualify for nationals.
“I look at Noah Larsen as a freshman, I don’t think he broke 65 in the 400 and he was 11-plus in the 2-mile. He was 5:20-plus (at 1,600), 2:20-plus (at 800), and now he’s one of the top Division II athletes in the country,” Elliott said.
Finding balance has been a big key for Noah’s success.
Between his growing faith and finding new hobbies, he has been able to take his mind off of track and field when he needs to.
“Rock climbing is my new hobby. I love rock climbing,” he said. “There’s two guys on the team I go and do that with all the time. We usually do it as a cool down. We’ll go run a couple of miles and head to the rock wall and climb for an hour or so. It’s a lot more core and legs than you’d think it would be.”
“Noah has found a way to have fun in a college environment, which sometimes can be more of a job,” Elliott said. “It’s very time consuming at the college level and he’s figured out that elusive ingredient for most college athletes.”
Noah is a great example for all young athletes out there. His hard work, determination and perseverance is unmatched.
“There’s a kid who two or three times could have given it up based on injury alone. To look past that shows how committed he is,” Elliott said. “He comes from a great family, people who are very genuine and like to finish what they start. I think this is the perfect example of a young man who has those qualities. I’ve not come across many like him who have that unwavering will to learn and improve.”
If his success on the track is any indication, the sky is the limit for Noah in life.
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Twitter – @scottvicker
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