With mud caked to her legs after she had fallen twice during the reserve race of the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 8 at Watkins Memorial, Pickerington High School Central senior cross country runner Carissa Trunzo settled for 75th in 28 minutes, 21.88 seconds.

With mud caked to her legs after she had fallen twice during the reserve race of the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 8 at Watkins Memorial, Pickerington High School Central senior cross country runner Carissa Trunzo settled for 75th in 28 minutes, 21.88 seconds.

Despite the disappointment she felt because she hoped to place higher, it was difficult for her not to smile during or after the race.

Simply being able to compete was something she wasn't sure would happen again after what she endured the past two years.

Trunzo competed for the Tigers as a freshman, but during that school year she was diagnosed with a condition called tarsal coalition in both feet.

She has had two surgeries since that time and raced for the first time since her freshman season Aug. 25 in the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North.

"It's been a long two years," Trunzo said. "I used to run (24 minutes) but in my first meet this year I ran about 31 minutes and (at Watkins Memorial) I ran 28 minutes and fell twice. Still, I'm just really excited I get to run my senior year. I'm slow, but as long as I'm doing what I love I'm fine. ... I could have run better, but I'm pretty sure I was smiling during my race (at Watkins Memorial)."

According to foothealth-facts.org, tarsal coalition is an abnormal connection that develops between two bones in the back of the foot. It most often occurs during fetal development, and symptoms usually appear between the ages of 9 and 16.

Trunzo ran a personal-best 24:39 as a freshman but would sometimes leave practice in intense pain. She said she also has reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, which according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is a condition that causes chronic pain and is believed to be the result of a dysfunction of the nervous system.

The combination of the two conditions prompted Trunzo to have surgery in May 2011. She spent most of the next year on crutches, with either a cast or boot on her left foot. Another surgery was performed in May of this year.

In Trunzo's first race this season, she ran 31:30.6 in the Bengal race of the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 25 to place 182nd overall and 13th among Central's runners.

She followed by finishing 224th (30:30.69) in the open race of the Running Warrior Invitational on Sept. 1 at Lebanon.

Despite the muddy conditions at Watkins Memorial, Trunzo dropped more than two minutes from the week before and helped her earn the team's runner of the week honor.

On Sept. 15, she again dropped her time more than two minutes while placing 140th (26:01.05) in the open race of the Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park.

"She's been in a walking boot for almost two years," coach Hunter Nichols said.

"She's been working all summer and fell down twice at Watkins Memorial but still dropped two minutes off her time. She said, 'I still want to run faster.' I think for her, it's just a joy to run. A lot of the girls are proud of her."

Trunzo's twin sister, Danielle Trunzo, also runs on the team but wasn't born with tarsal coalition.

Elizabeth Weed, Madison Cheyunski, Stephanie Gase, Morgan Richardson, Jayla Doggette and Julia Filby have been among the Tigers' top runners in most races.

Nichols has attempted to instill more competitiveness by focusing on racing competitions during practice.

Carissa Trunzo believes it is working. Her biggest goal is breaking the personal-best time she ran as a freshman.

"I've always enjoyed just the feeling of going out and getting fit and have always had a passion for (running)," she said.

"I wanted to go out and be the fastest girl. There are definitely a lot of girls that are improving. I'm in back so I've seen them since they were freshmen and I know a few of the girls are going to do great things in the future. For the open girls, even though the results don't count (toward the varsity score), it counts to us. I love the atmosphere and I'm really going to miss that next year."

Central boys, North teams making strides

All the Pickerington teams will compete in the Tiger Invitational at Central on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Seniors Brent Pritchard and Adam Honaker and sophomore Zach Zimmerman have been leading the North boys team.

Juniors Nick Hagihiri and Brian Lanier and sophomore Ryan Kronk have been other key runners.

"We've been staying low-key and for the most part just trying to avoid injuries," coach Tim Starkey said.

"Things are looking good for us. Hilliard Davidson and Westerville North are definitely going to be tough teams from the area, and I think central Ohio is the dominant region in Ohio."

Freshman Steven Bauers has stepped into the No. 1 role and classmate Robert Hoagland also has become a key runner for the Central boys.

Senior Luke Forshey, junior Maaz Shafi and sophomores Evan Jaynes, Sean Phillips and Jonathan Taranto have been other contributors.

"We've been solid if not spectacular," coach Andy Fischer said. "We've been finishing in about the middle of the pack of our races, but we've got a lot of young guys who are pushing some of the older guys.

"I think we've got a possible regional-qualifying team this year and with the bulk of this team coming back next year, we have the potential to do it two years in a row."

Two-time Division I state qualifier Kristen Eisenhauer has been leading the North girls.

She was first in 19:32.18 in the Westerville Classic on Sept. 1 at Westerville North.

Other key runners for the Panthers have included seniors Fayth Greegor, Sarah Rini, Sinclair Stockard and Kelsey Waite, juniors Cortney Palmer and Jordan Potts and freshman Kat Lowe.

"So far we're doing well," coach Jim Langenderfer said. "Several of them have been close to their (personal-best times). I think we're right where we want to be, but we just got hit with a bunch of head colds (last) week. It's going to take us another week to get moving again.

"Kat Lowe has got the potential to drop the most time because she's a freshman. She's got some talent, that's for sure, and Kelsey Waite has been having a great year."