The decision to partake in a child's game changed the course of Julia Fries' running career.
The senior on the Dublin Coffman High School girls track and field team injured her right knee at a church camp in the fall of her junior year. She has not competed in track or cross country since.
"I wrenched my knee playing tag, but I learned my lesson. I stay away from that now," Fries said. "(The doctor) gave me a cortisone shot, but that didn't help. I finally had the knee scoped last spring and then still had to go in last summer for microfracture surgery."
Fries was coming off a spectacular sophomore season in which she reached the podium in the Division I state meet by placing eighth in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 15.86 seconds) and teaming with 2012 graduate Clarissa Bons, 2013 graduate Rachel Weber and senior Rachel Bosworth to place eighth in the 3,200 relay (9:22.91).
"I had high hopes for my junior year, coming off placing at state," Fries said. "It was tough last year at regional and state because I knew I should have been there, but I couldn't do anything about it. I had to suck it up and get ready for this year."
Fries is eager to get back on the track in the 800, an event that she said suits her personality.
"The 800 is like a long sprint and it fits me best," she said. "When I finish the first lap, I know I only have one lap left, and that's perfect for me."
Coach Greg King said Fries is a natural for the event.
"Julia has good speed, good endurance and is just an extraordinary competitor. When Rachel Weber wasn't able to compete two years ago at regional, Julia had to run the anchor (of the 3,200 relay) and she was like, 'Give me the baton.' She went out and had her best time of 2:14 in her leg. She has a lot of determination."
That determination has helped Fries work her way back to competing this season. She has spent numerous hours training in a pool and on a stationary bike to rebuild the strength in her right knee and her athletic conditioning. King expects her to return to competition early next month to prepare for the OCC-Central Division meet May 15 and 17 at Thomas Worthington as well as the postseason.
"Julia just wants to get back," King said. "She told me after her microfracture surgery last summer that she's just happy to finally not be in pain when she walks. That's how difficult it has been for her."
Fries has curbed her expectations but hopes her body will hold up after her return.
"I want to see where I'm at and be ready to compete by the end of the season," she said. "I don't know what will happen when I get back ... I don' know how my knee will handle it.
"I'm trying not to have high expectations. My goal is to make it back to the regional meet. I want to run in one postseason race and get some confidence. If I can make it back to regional, I know that I have been able to beat my knee and overcome the injury."