Babcock healthy again, looks to help UW women to another cross country title
Back-to-back injuries to her right foot in her sophomore and junior years disrupted Christine Babcock's trajectory to stardom.
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First came signs of greatness. Later came an appreciation for life's simple gifts, good health in particular.
"I've learned a lot about joy and peace and trusting through my injuries, more so than I would have ever learned when running healthfully," said Christine Babcock, who on Monday will line up as the lone senior running for the third-ranked Washington women's cross-country team at the NCAA nationals in Terre Haute, Ind.
Babcock came to Washington as a distance prodigy from Irvine, Calif., where she set national high-school records in the 1,500-meter run and the mile. In the 1,500, she broke a mark that had stood for 26 years. She competed at the 2008 Olympic Trials in the 1,500, reached the semifinals and placed 18th.
At UW that fall, she placed seventh overall in the NCAA cross-country nationals, the top finisher on a powerhouse Washington team that won the school's first national title. Babcock was the fastest freshman in the field and was crowned an All-American.
So much promise. Then came the agony of back-to-back injuries to her right foot in her sophomore and junior years that disrupted her trajectory to stardom.
Babcock's response? Acceptance and gratitude for all that's good in life.
"I've become a lot more appreciative for things that I would have otherwise taken for granted," Babcock said.
"I've become way more mature and solid in my (Christian) faith than I ever was," she said. "Going through trials like this, makes little things seem so much less significant."
Babcock's first injury surfaced in June 2009, following a boffo spring 2009 track season when she ran the year's fastest mile by a freshman and placed 11th at the NCAA championships in the 1,500.
"I was told it was tendinitis," she said, "A runner thinks, 'Oh, I can run through that. It's just a little ache.' But as the season progressed it became pretty apparent that it wasn't tendinitis."
Coach Greg Metcalf directed Babcock to numerous doctors and specialists before one correctly identify the problem — an inflamed tendon sheath that stretches to the big toe.
"Apparently it's very rare," Babcock said. "I spent four months having the injury misdiagnosed. People didn't know what it was, but they thought they knew what it was."
Still, Babcock kept running and, despite pain, placed 34th overall at the 2009 nationals. She finally abandoned running for seven months, skipping the spring 2010 track season.
She was not in competitive shape for cross country season in the of fall 2010. But eager to help senior pals reach nationals one last time, Babcock sacrificed a possible redshirt season and ran in three 2010 postseason races. UW qualified and finished 16th; Babcock, with minimal training, finished 114th.
Yet another ailment, an inflamed Achilles in February, caused Babcock to miss this year's spring track season. Finally, she's healthy and eager to run at nationals a final time.
"I've done a lot of hard work," she said. "Now we'll just see where it takes me.
"I'm learning how to be content, how not to be sad or mourn the situation that I'm in. I'm learning to accept it as the new normal rather than comparing it to how it used to be. I want to be someone who's known for joy, peace and trust rather than negativity. That was a really, really big lesson for me to learn."
• Babcock was 14th at the West Regional on Nov. 12, when UW easily won its fourth straight regional title. Also scoring for UW: sophomore Katie Flood, the Pac-12 meet champ (fifth), sophomore Megan Goethals (eighth), junior Lindsay Flanagan (10th) and sophomore Justine Johnson (13th).
• Babcock is the squad's Betty Crocker. She baked the team mint brownies for the Pac-12 meet and seven-layer bars for regionals. "I make baked goods for every trip," she said. "I'm still working on what to make for nationals."
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