Hinsdale South’s popular Vicente Perez on way his back from knee woes

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HINSDALE — Vicente Perez is used to being at the front of the pack for the Hinsdale South.

As a sophomore last fall, he was the Hornets’ No. 1 runner. But during the track and field season in the spring he started having severe pain in both knees. He was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter, a disease that can create a painful lump and swelling near the kneecap.

Perez, who is part of Hinsdale South’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, was unable to compete in track and didn’t start training for cross country until mid-August.

“I was upset when it happened but I was positive and thought it would improve after a few weeks,” Perez said through a sign-language interpreter. “It didn’t, but I did a lot of stretches and exercises and icing.”

Now, Perez is trying to get back in running shape and regain his No. 1 spot.

“He basically missed March through August of running, and in this sport it kind of helps to be in shape,” Hornets coach Jim Dickerson said. “So he’s just getting back, and I think he’ll get back.”

“It’s hard because I didn’t run during the summer like I did last year,” Perez said. “I just think positive and try to do my best every day. I know maybe I’m going to improve later so that helps me keep positive. I keep that in mind.”

His knees don’t hurt as much as they did during track season, but they don’t feel as good as they did last fall.

“I go to practice and run and everything is all right,” Perez said. “Then later, when I get home at night it will hurt worse.”

Since the disease should subside after his bones are done growing, there isn’t much Perez can do, other than wearing patellar tendon straps below the knee, icing to reduce swelling and stretching to reduce tension in the knee.

He competed in the team’s first race of the season, the Hornet-Red Devil Invite on Sept. 6. Perez finished 163rd of 368 runners, completing the three-mile course in 18:00.26. Last year he finished 72nd in 16:51.94.

“I’m just being patient and trying to continue running,” Perez said.

Dickerson is confident that Perez will finish the season strong.

“We have a good team and if we can get to state, I think he can be under 16 minutes on that fast course,” Dickerson said. “I’ve seen it before, where people miss a lot of time and get back and he’s a naturally good runner. I count on him getting back there.”

Perez has a lot of admirers on the team. His teammates see how hard he’s working to come back and how he’s focused on bringing in new members to the squad. Perez has convinced four other students from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program to join the cross country team. Plus there’s what he did last year when he was the top runner.

“He’s a big inspiration to us,” Hornets senior Joe Eilbert said. “When he joined no one expected him to be top runner but last year he just started running really fast. It was incredible. Everyone really respects him for what he’s done and what he’s done for the program.”

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