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Greenleaf overcomes injury to help Pacers to state title


The Pacer hurdler dealt with a bone bruise for nearly a year and ran in just one meet before districts

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - UCLA-bound Madi Greenleaf overcame a tough ankle injury to take second in state in two hurdles events and help Lakeridge win a team state title this year.One year ago, Lakeridge's Madi Greenleaf was coming off another terrific track season, one that saw her place in the top-three in both hurdles events at state, a feat that solidified her place as one of the elite runners in Oregon.

She was being heavily recruited by many of the best college track programs in the nation and, after two near misses at a state title, set her sites on accomplishing that goal during her senior year.

Just a few weeks later, Greenleaf was warming up for a Junior Olympics event when she jammed her ankle coming out of the blocks.

While she had never sustained a serious injury before, Greenleaf's ankles had been known to give her issues from time to time.

“I've had a lot of sprained ankles. I did a lot of ballet when I was younger and I guess my ankles are really flexible so sometimes I'd get a sprain just walking,” Greenleaf said.

She immediately knew something was wrong and had multiple x-rays, and it initially appeared that she may have sustained a stress fracture, which could have been a devastating diagnosis.

However, after an MRI, the issue was revealed to be a bone bruise, a no-less painful ailment which still required a lengthy recovery time.

In terms of healing the injury, there was little that Greenleaf could do aside from staying off it as much as possible and wearing a small brace.

However, if she wanted to stay in shape for track, she still had to train relentlessly.

In fact, her workouts became considerably more lengthy and involved despite not being able to run traditionally.

Greenleaf lifted more weights and ran on a special Ultra G treadmill at Lake Oswego Physical Therapy, which took the pressure off her ankle.

It all amounted to around five hours of training a day on top of normal schoolwork and other activities that a normal high school senior is involved in.

Greenleaf's goal was always to be ready for the beginning of the track season but she experienced minor setbacks throughout the year.

It was evident that she would not be ready to run by the beginning of the year but she continued to train and, by the middle of the year, she could run in the 400 meters yet still wasn't cleared for the physically demanding hurdles events.

With just one meet remaining before districts, Greenleaf was finally ready to compete in her best events. The hurdles are among the most technical events in track and field and the Pacer senior was only able to work on that aspect of her races for two weeks.

While Greenleaf was confident that she had the physical skills to qualify for state and contend for a title, the mental aspect was perhaps more difficult to overcome.

“My times were right where they had been last year and I knew I could contend for state but I was so far behind with my conditioning,” Greenleaf said.

She breezed through the final regular season meet and, as expected, dominated both events at districts with times that approached the best of her career.

“I was lucky to get that one meet in otherwise I would have been really scared,” Greenleaf said.

In the prelims, Greenleaf ran the third-fastest time in both events as she continued to gain confidence in her ankle and as she settled more comfortably into her technique.

In the finals on Saturday, Greenleaf lowered her times considerably and took second place in both the 100 and 300 hurdles.

In the 100 hurdles, she was edged out by one-hundredth of a second after posting a career-best time.

It was, at the same time, an incredible achievement for someone who had barely raced in nearly an entire year, but also devastating to come so close to an individual title again.

“I think it's impressive but looking back I can't be too happy because, when you're that close, it wasn't about anything physically,” Greenleaf said.

However, heading into the final event of the girls meet, it quickly became apparent that the Lakeridge girls were in position to perhaps capture their first team track state title in school history.

The Pacers simply needed to run a solid time and finish in front of Jesuit's 4x400 relay team.

Lakeridge held a slim lead over the Crusaders through three legs but, when a determined Greenleaf took the baton with 400 meters to go, she almost immediately put Jesuit's anchor runner in the rear view mirror.

“I just kept on telling myself that the Jesuit girl was right behind me,” Greenleaf said.

Greenleaf finished with the fastest 400 leg of her high school career and the 4x400 relay team clinched the team state title for Lakeridge.

“It would have much tougher if we hadn't won the team title. In a way it's almost better because it's the first time a Lakeridge team had done it and that flag will be up in the gym,” Greenleaf said.

With the summer ahead of her, Greenleaf has finally been able to slow down and continue to rehab her ankle. A bright collegiate future should be ahead of her as well.

In the fall, Greenleaf will attend UCLA, one of the top track programs in the country. While she had many opportunities, she was blown away by the caliber of coaches and athletes that UCLA attracts.

“It was the last school I visited and nothing could compare to the coaches there. My conditioning coach is the world record holder in the 800, the 4x100 coach is a gold medalist. I walked onto the track and there were Olympic medalists all over working out,” Greenleaf said.

She will be competing against elite competition in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation and she hopes to make an immediate impact.

“I know if I work hard, I'm going to reach my potential at UCLA. My goal is to place in the Pac-12,” Greenleaf said.