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Running From Pain Wv Sprinter Wasn’t Going To Let An Agonizing Back Keep Her From Racing

When a congenital back condition resulted in stress fractures and a slipped disk, Ruth Gerber told her physical therapist and chiropractor she wanted to be ready to run track her senior year.

They told her she was not talking about her senior year but about the rest of her life.

“They were trying to keep me out of the surgery room,” the West Valley High sprinter said. “I told them that running is the rest of my life.”

She spent last year in constant pain and credits therapist Chuck Strickell and chiropractor Mike Baker with enabling her to compete.

One of seven senior girls who began varsity track at West Valley High as freshmen, Gerber this year wasn’t about to miss out on the group’s fourth straight championship.

“She loves track so much and has so much heart, it was impossible to keep her away,” said her coach, Jeana Haag.

Gerber is the only one of the septet, which includes fellow sprinters Shawna Lydon, Jenny Lebsack, throwers Kaci Stansbury and Vicki Mudd, triple jumper Terra Inman and distance runner Shannon Mortensen, to have gone to state since her freshman year.

She qualified with the 4x400 relay team and considers the 400 meters her best race.

Her uncles were distance runners at West Valley and at Eastern Washington University, where she plans to enroll. Gerber will probably run the 400 and 800 meter events at EWU after a red-shirt season.

This year, if Gerber is to qualify for state a fourth straight time, it will come in the sprints and two shorter relays as a concession to her injured back.

“I ran my last 400 last week,” said Gerber, who begged Haag for the opportunity to run it at district.

The injury was never a problem until last year when she fell during plyometric exercises. She was forced to take six months off and wore a brace for three months.

“I told them I wanted to to run my senior year really bad,” said Gerber.

Two weeks before this track season, the brace came off. She was released to jog. Friday before the first meet she was cleared to run. During a non-league meet against Mead, she competed on a relay. Her back hasn’t bothered her.

“I can’t believe the stuff she’s overcome,” said boys coach Jim McLachlan. “She’s one of our most dedicated kids, who would do anything to run.”

Of late Gerber has run a 12.7 100, one-tenth second short of the state qualifying standard, a 26.6 200 and has been part of near-school record 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams along with Lydon and Lebsack.

Those are the events she will concentrate on this week at district at the behest of her coach who sees them as WV’s best state scoring opportunities.

Haag took over the girls coaching job at the same time Gerber and her fellow seniors came on board. Together they have been untouchable in the Frontier League and will be missed even though there is still a wealth of returning talent.

“I was very naive and just thrust into coaching,” Haag recalled. “Jim said we would win it and the season hadn’t even started.”

With the first league meet, a victory over defending champion Colville, Gerber knew good things were in store.

“Jeana was so excited,” she said. “From then on we knew more wins were going to come.”

After their freshman year, winning four straight had been the goal of the girls. And Gerber made sure she was there to be a part of it.

“After I was injured, I was afraid to run,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have gotten healthy so fast.”