In the months leading into this track and field season, Tim Eason was eager to get running, with high hopes for the season.
He had finished third at the District 6 Championships last season, getting him a spot at the state meet, and the two runners ahead of him at the district meet have since graduated.
“Coming into the season I was pretty excited,” the Philipsburg-Osceola senior said. “I thought I had a pretty good shot at winning districts and the school record was really close to my time, so I felt really good about that.”
The spring hasn’t exactly gone as planned, however, and Eason’s chances of qualifying for the PIAA Championships are tenuous.
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Eason will be on the track at Altoona’s Mansion Park giving it his best shot, however, as P-O and more than 30 other schools will send athletes to the Class AA meet, which gets started at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The senior will just be glad to be there with a few more turns around the track. He will be taking his shot in the 800-meter run, as well as running on the P-O 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
During the winter, as he was running in preparation for the season and also working on weight training, he began to feel pain in his knee, and eventually he decided to take a few weeks off to rest.
When he returned to running, so did the pain, and the frustration grew.
“He tried to get past it, but it got worse and worse,” Mounties coach Roy Warlow said.
As the season approached, he saw a doctor and found he had patellar tendonitis — “jumper’s knee” — and the first order was to sit for another four weeks.
“That was not the place to be if you’re a competitor like he is,” Warlow said.
When he wasn’t going to rehab workout, he still went to practices and watched, and even traveled for road meets.
“It kind of bothered him, but he was being a good sport about it,” Warlow said. “He came to practice when he wasn’t going to physical therapy or whatever. It bugged him because he wanted to be out there and contribute with the team.”
Eason, who figures he runs 16-25 miles a week during the offseason and 10-15 miles a week during the season, also has had to keep the workouts dialed back once he was allowed to return.
It shows in his times.
Last May when finishing third in the district 800, he clocked in at 2 minutes, 3.97 seconds. He had a 2:08.37 time, finishing 12th in his heat, at the PIAA meet.
At the West Central Coaches Invitational on May 2, he finished in 2:11.41, and he followed that last Wednesday at the Mountain League Championships with a 2:09.45.
“It definitely has affected that last 200 meters of the 800,” Eason said. “My first laps last year also were faster than my first laps this year.”
He had an additional obstacle from the WCC meet, with a sore foot from getting it stepped on earlier in the week, tearing his shoe and cutting his foot.
It made him a little more skittish about the crowd all closing in on the inner lanes in the first 200 meters of the WCC race.
“I was worried about getting spiked, so I didn’t go out the first 100 meters very hard,” Eason said. “I kind of let people get in front of me, and that definitely affected my time. As far as running, runner’s knee can come back whenever, so I’m definitely more aware when I get pain in that knee.”
Eason finished third at the Mountain League meet, trailing Penns Valley’s Gino Nicosia and Bald Eagle Area’s Zach Moody. Brian Heckman of St. Joseph’s also is seeded ahead of Eason for the district meet.
While the 800 was his chance to shine individually, he’s also looking forward to the 3,200 and 1,600 relays, and getting to compete with his teammates. He has been feeling much better about the way he has been running his 400 split times.
“It’s pretty impressive when he’s on point, the length of his stride and how he can make up ground,” Warlow said. “Before he came back, we had to slap together a 4x8 team and a 4x4 team, and we were kind of struggling. He came back and you could see the times for those teams are considerably better.”
With or without a healthy knee, track was a question mark in his future. He plans to study mechanical engineering at Bucknell, and he had not had any discussions with the Bison track coaches.
Just having a chance to compete this week has helped his outlook.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to run at all,” Eason said. “I know that I can recover from it. It’s been getting better recently, and I’ve just been thankful I’ve been able to run at all this season.”
He is realistic and what he can — and can’t — do, a let-down from his expectations in the dead of winter, but it won’t mean he will take it easy.
“It’s probably my last race for high school,” Eason said. “I’ll definitely give it everything.”