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Originally published October 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 30, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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After pit bull attack, Mount Rainier's Prentice is back in the running

What started as a typical training run ended up taking a big bite out of Ryan Prentice's cross-country season, thanks to a vicious pit bull...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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DES MOINES — What started as a typical training run ended up taking a big bite out of Ryan Prentice's cross-country season, thanks to a vicious pit bull terrier.

Prentice, primed for a run toward the Class 3A state championship after placing third as a junior, was in sensational shape that August day, sprinting along his usual Normandy Park trail.

"I was feeling great," the senior at Mount Rainier High School recalled. "I was on top of the world."

But his world began to crumble after he veered around a man walking his pit bull.

The pit bull attacked.

"All of the sudden I felt teeth biting into my butt and I was on the ground," Prentice said.

At just 5 feet 5 ½ and 115 pounds, Prentice couldn't offer much resistance.

"I'm surprised he could find anything to latch on to," he said with a smile.

The owner got his dog under control and apologized. Prentice popped up and proceeded to run two more miles. When he got home, he found a hole in the back of his shorts and four teeth marks in his skin.

"I still have the teeth marks," he said.

Prentice saw a doctor and received a precautionary tetanus shot. It didn't seem as though he'd miss a step this season. He won the "senior" division at the Seamount League class meet to start the season, then ran a personal best at the Fort Steilacoom Invitational, where he placed second to Puyallup's Rob Webster, a 4A state contender.

But during his cool down, Prentice tightened up. He and his coach, Brian Jacobson, decided he should not run for two weeks. Prentice attempted to come back for the Mount Baker Invitational, but the pain intensified.

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"It felt horrible," he said.

He assumed it was a pulled muscle, but a return trip to a doctor forced him to rethink the injury. The doctor asked if he had fallen in the past couple of months and Prentice finally thought to mention the pit bull attack.

"Oh, well, that might have done it," the doctor told him.

Prentice apparently had altered his gait while dealing with lingering pain from the bite and it threw his hips out of alignment. He received treatments and stopped running again, training instead on an elliptical bike and other indoor equipment.

"It was frustrating, because the only time it flared up was when I was running," he said. "It felt fine when I was walking."

Prentice made his comeback at the Seamount championships a week and a half ago and won his third consecutive league title. More importantly, there was no pain.

"It felt really good," he said.

Prentice said he knows he might pay a price for his lack of conditioning. In the 3A division of the Westside Classic district meet last Saturday, he couldn't keep up with Auburn Riverside junior Julian Blake-Cowan and had to settle for second place.

"I was a little tired," Prentice said. "I just didn't have enough oomph in me. I just need another week or so and I'll hopefully be ready for state."

Ready or not, the state meet is Saturday in Pasco. Prentice isn't backing down from his preseason goal.

"I think it would be really cool to win it, but there's some really good competition out there," he said. "That's my main goal."

Prentice, who placed second in the 3,200 meters at the 3A state track and field championships last spring, knows he'll get stronger as he continues to train. He looks forward to the big postseason meets, like the Border Clash and Foot Locker series. But Jacobson isn't ruling out a title run at state.

"He's a competitor," Jacobson said. "He runs very well in big meets."

Prentice hasn't let the experience turn him against dogs. His family owns two, a German Shepherd and English Mastiff.

"I definitely give dogs their space when I'm running," he said, "but I'm still a dog lover."

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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