DES MOINES - She says it only hurts when she exerts herself.
For somebody who loves to run, Marshalltown High School senior Sarah Shirar endures more pain than most - and does it without complaint.
Shirar capped her prep career with a pair of races in Saturday's Class 4A competition at the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships inside Drake Stadium, exceeding her seedings in both the 800- and 1,500-meter events.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Marshalltown senior Sarah Shirar, above, takes a moment to catch her breath after running the Class 4A 1,500 meters during Saturday’s state meet at Drake Stadium. She finished 20th in a time of 5 minutes, 3.29 seconds.
And beating what some would call long odds against her.
Shirar was diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, missing most of the fall cross country season because of the "uncommon, exercise-induced neuromuscular condition that causes pain, swelling and sometimes even disability in affected muscles of your legs," according to the Mayo Clinic.
The condition can develop in anyone but is most common in athletes who participate in sports that involve repetitive movement - like running.
Shirar elected for surgery during the fall to combat the condition, and has been running through the painful recuperation ever since.
"I'm getting stronger each day and trusting that God will get me through it," she said with a smile after her final high school race on Saturday. "It's not bad anymore. It only happens when you exert yourself, so it's a lot better than it used to be (before the surgery).
"It hurts, yeah, but it's worth it."
Shirar finished a second shy of her season-best time in the 1,500, placing 20th with a time of 5 minutes, 3.29 seconds. She was seeded 24th going into the state meet.
Earlier in the day, she earned 16th place in the 800 with a time of 2:22.31. It would have been a personal best, too, if she hadn't already logged a faster time running the opening leg of the Bobcats' 4x800-meter relay on Thursday.
After every race she bends down and reaches toward her lower legs, finally sitting down and taking her shoes off. It can be assumed she gets up and walks off when it's not too painful to do so.
"I just always trusted that God would get me through it," she said. "I know I love to run and I'm made to do it, so He's gotten me through this far and I've had a wonderful season.
"Right now it's getting better. I do get a lot of questions. I just want to be a good leader on the team, a lot of these girls are just so much fun to be around and I think we all give each other motivation."
Fellow MHS senior Mackenzie Beals wore the look of disappointment after finishing eighth in Saturday's finals of the 200, but things often seem to look better when seen through the proper perspective.
"In the end I'm proud I made it to the 200 finals because that's what I wanted to do the past three years," she said. "Everything happens for a reason, but knowing I can run 25 (seconds) and ran 27 kind of stinks, especially because I trained really hard and I put a lot of effort into it.
"Now I've just got to come back and train even harder so I can run on the blue next year."
Beals qualified through Thursday's preliminaries with the seventh-seeded time of 26.32, but a 3.7-meter headwind on the homestrech on Saturday left her in eighth with a time of 27.15.
"Making finals was awesome, and I still have another four years," said the Minnesota State-Mankato recruit. "We come back for the Drake Relays and I'm not done on the blue oval.
"I could definitely feel the headwind, it was hard to run in, and I haven't run in lane one all season. It's hard to come back from there."
Beals picked up one last point for the Bobcats with her finish in the 200, and MHS placed 26th as a team with three points. Amanda Schrempf scored seventh in the shot put on Friday.
Marshalltown's highest-seeded event for state was the sprint medley. Ranked 12th, the Bobcat quartet of Chione Brooks, Jessie Vopava, Beals and Eisha Oden edged out their best time of the spring with a 1:51.57, resulting in a 13th-place finish.
"I'd say it went well," Shirar said of Marshalltown's state meet experience this season. "We came down here and scored some points. Mackenzie did really well, so did Amanda, so I was really excited to watch them do that. They deserve it."