By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online
By the time Courtney Schrier had crossed the finish line at the 2011 Central Coast Section cross-country championships, two of her Sacred Heart Prep teammates and 22 other runners were ahead of her.
Schrier, a junior, finished 25th overall (20th for team scoring purposes) in 20:40 over the hilly 2.95-mile Crystal Springs course in Belmont. In only her third race of the season, it was her third-slowest time.
The fact that Schrier was even running, and helping her SHP team finish fourth to qualify for this Saturday's CIF State Meet in Fresno, was a remarkable achievement. Who says youth is wasted on the young?
Being young and fit likely allowed Schrier to be running on that overcast day on Nov. 12. Otherwise, she might not have taken a single step this cross-country season.
Schrier was hit by a car on July 26 as she was walking across El Camino Real at Alejandra Avenue in Atherton. She had just finished a training run and was just moments from her home when she was struck.
Schrier was thrown into the air before hitting the ground and losing consciousness.
"I remember waking up in the ambulance," Schrier said last week as she prepared for Saturday's state finals at Woodward Park. "And I remember waking up in the (Stanford) hospital, and seeing my dad. He was crying."
Schrier had a crack in her pelvis, hip and tailbone in addition to suffering a concussion. Despite her medical problems, the fact Schrier was so fit from training for the San Francisco Half-Marathon (which she missed), perhaps allowed her to leave the hospital after only three days despite not being able to walk right away.
"I was so tired for a couple of weeks," Schrier recalled. "There were definitely phases when I was pretty bummed."
She returned to see her doctor four weeks later.
"He said come back and see me in another eight weeks and we'll talk about doing a little activity," Schrier said. "He was really conservative. He wasn't expecting me to run at all this cross-country season."
That was not what Schrier wanted to hear.
Schrier eventually got a second opinion, had some x-rays taken and was cleared to run only two months after her accident and two weeks after beginning physical therapy.
Just two weeks later, Schrier was back training with her Sacred Heart Prep teammates.
"I thought maybe she could do track," said SHP coach Marisa Beck. "I never imagined she's be ready for cross country. She didn't start running until mid-October . . . The first day she came out, she ran with the varsity athletes. It helps to be a 16-year-old."
Schrier began her comeback training two days a week and is now up to four days, plus one day on an elliptical trainer. On Saturday, she'll run in her first state meet.
Schrier only began running her freshman year, but progressed quickly. Last season, she had personal records in all her cross-country meets while helping the Gators win their first West Bay Athletic League crown.
Her 2011 season began at the final Center Meet of the year at Crystal Springs, where Schrier ran in the JV race and won it as her teammates cheered her on. The following week, she clocked a personal best of 20:29.9 at Crystal Springs while finishing 12th overall and helping the Gators defend their team crown.
At CCS, she was the team's No. 3 scorer for the second straight meet as freshman Gillian Belton finished seventh overall and junior Kathryn Leahy was 21st. Sophomore Megan Holland (36th) and junior Brooke Neider (53rd) finished high enough to give the Gators the final state meet berth in Division IV.
"I was not so sure about running cross country," Schrier said. "Now, I really appreciate being able to run. After you lose something, you realize how much you love it."
While her hip still isn't that strong, Schrier is definitely looking forward to Saturday's season-ending race.
"State is definitely going to be the high point," Schrier said of her limited season. "I'm just going to have a good time, go out there and see what we can do."
Meanwhile, Schrier has done her best to put the accident behind her. Still, there are constant reminders.
"I have to drive past the crosswalk every day to get to school," said Schrier, who lives only two blocks from where the accident occurred. "I think from now on I'm going to drive to my (training) runs."
The Sacred Heart Prep girls are one of five local teams to reach the state meet. The Gunn girls will run in Division I, the Castilleja and Priory girls will compete in Division V and the Priory boys also will run in Division V.
Individually, Gunn sophomore Sarah Robinson and Priory senior Kat Gregory have the best chances to finish among the top 10 and bring home a medal.
Robinson ran a personal best of 17:12 at the CCS finals while Gregory won her third straight section title while winning comfortably in 18:23. Her PR at Crystal is 18:12 from earlier in the season.