A broken wrist could’ve ended senior Ryan Lang’s cross country career, instead, it rejuvenated it.
When Lang fractured a bone in his left wrist during a skateboarding accident in early July, he thought nothing of it. A day later with his wrist swollen and Lang in discomfort, he went to the doctor where doctors told him about the broken bone.
“I was supposed to be out for six months,” he said. “I had to immobilize it and couldn’t run.”
It was a prognosis that would’ve ended his cross country career.
“It was definitely frustrating to think I was done,” Lang said. “And for a while I really did think that.”
But on a routine checkup with his doctor, Lang got good news. The bone, which normally requires six months of healing, had mended in less than three. As far as the doctors were concerned Lang was cleared to run.
Getting back on the team, however, wasn’t as simple. Because of the expected recovery time, Lang had cleared his schedule of cross country and enrolled in other classes. A week past the date to adjust class schedules when he found out he could run again, getting back onto the cross country squad wasn’t a certainty.
“I had to fight to get them to let me back on the team, which was a pain,” he said of the process of being granted a waiver to run by Piedmont school administrators. “If I hadn’t gone to coach (Todd) Johnson and I hadn’t have had him to back me up I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
And in hindsight, if not for the injury, Lang might not have either. After a solid sophomore season, Lang had big expectations as a junior, but things didn’t go as planned.
“That year was kind of a rough year for me. I was going through some personal stuff,” he said. “So it’s kind of me coming back after a year break.”
His times were slower and his dedication to the sport slipped as a junior.
“Big difference from last year to this year,” Johnson, who’s coached Lang for five years, said. “Last year was difficult for me because I’d never seen him not have that drive and that want to. He kind of lost that last year.
“Now I think he’s doing things for the right reasons. His mentality, his work ethic, everything has completely changed this season. I think he’s the runner he was four or five years ago.”
Four years back Lang played a big part in helping Piedmont’s middle school team to a state title. As a sophomore two seasons ago, Lang was one of the Wildcats best runners and consistently ran in the 17:30-range. Lang is focused on regaining that form again.
“I continue to surprise myself with how hard I’ve been able to push myself in practice and in races,” he said of the process of getting back into shape after the injury.
Lang ran a 19:09 at the OK Runner Classic in his first race this season and hopes to be down into the low 18s or high 17s by season’s end. With a fresh start and a new mindset formed, at least in part, from the injury, that seems more likely than ever before.
“I’m focused. I haven’t wanted it as much as this ever before,” he said. “I’m trying to do everything right – make sure I eat well, stretch and take care of my body. It’s a good feeling.”