The Maine South girls cross country team qualified for this weekend’s Class 3A state meet even though only six of its seven runners were able to complete the Lake Park Sectional.
Hawks sophomore Olivia Ryan wasn’t able to finish because during the race she experienced what she said is best described as a tongue seizure. She said it is similar to a person’s arm falling asleep. Ryan said she dealt with the issue — which hasn’t been diagnosed — a lot when she was younger and it makes it very difficult to breathe. She said it’s happened six or seven times this year, and each time was during a race.
“Her tongue starts to waggle back and forth, and it just starts to cause her some distress breathing, and because she can’t control it she starts to panic a little bit and it gets worse,” Downing said. “Up to a point she was running pretty well (at the Lake Park Sectional) — she was out ahead of our No. 5 girl at the time — then all of a sudden, this panic came on. And then it’s uncontrollable.”
Downing said Ryan appeared to be fine as she began her second lap at Lake Park’s East campus, but then he and the Hawks’ coaching staff didn’t see her at the mile-and-three-quarters mark.
On Sunday evening, Downing said he was not sure if Ryan would compete at Saturday’s state meet in Peoria. Sophomore Kalina Gardiner and freshman Sydney Richter are possible replacements, but Downing said he wasn’t likely to make a decision regarding Ryan until the middle of this week.
“It’s one of those things where we have to gauge if it’s in her best interest, if we feel that it would repeat itself,” Downing said. “Then, maybe, we would err on the side of giving her the week off — put somebody else in there to get them some experience. In the long run, if she had an episode at the state meet, I don’t know how that would be a great way to end the season.”