Heather Scobie cringes at the memory of last spring's Pasadena Games at Occidental College. After running the anchor leg on the Saugus distance medley relay in the track and field meet, she collapsed on the track in pain.
"It felt like someone took my foot and was trying to yank it off my leg," said Scobie, who suffered a stress fracture of her right tibia.
She tried to get up but was unable to, forcing Steve Spraker, the Saugus cross-country coach, to carry her from the track.
"That was the breaking point," she said. "I couldn't handle the pain anymore."
It was the lowest point in Scobie's injury-riddled sophomore season, which began with high expectations.
As a freshman, Scobie placed second in the 1985 Southern Section 3-A cross-country championships. In the 1986 3-A track championships, she ran third in the 3,200 meters and placed fifth in the 1,600. She had a personal best of 4 minutes, 54.53 seconds in the 1,600 and placed eighth at the state championships in Cerritos.
"I couldn't have asked for a better freshman season," Spraker said. "She ran great. We were really looking forward to her second year."
Spraker is also looking forward to this season. If Scobie remains healthy, the Centurions could place in the top five at the 3-A championships. Saugus placed seventh in '86 after finishing third in '85.
Junior Amy Reiter is the Centurions' No. 2 runner for the third consecutive year. Although she placed sixth in the 3-A championships in 1985, Reiter finished a disappointing 24th last season. Senior Marnie Bond and juniors Shana Burt and Vicki Kadroski round out the top five.
"If we can stay healthy, we'll be tough," Spraker said. "We could place in the top three."
So much depends on Scobie, however.
Her leg miseries began early in her sophomore cross-country season. Initially, the pain was tolerable. Scobie was forced to miss a workout occasionally but still raced. As the season progressed, however, so did the pain.
When the Los Angeles County cross-country championships were decided at College of the Canyons in mid-October, Scobie viewed the race on a pair of crutches.
Amazingly, she won the Golden League championship two weeks later. Two weeks after that, Scobie again placed second in the Southern Section 3-A championships.
"She did most of that on natural talent and guts," Spraker said. "She hadn't been able to train properly for most of the season."
Despite the lost training time and the injury, the pain in Scobie's leg had subsided enough that she began the 1987 track season optimistically. Once she started racing, however, the pain returned, culminating in the trauma at the Pasadena Games.
"That was embarrassing," she said. "I couldn't even walk off the track. I had to be carried off."
Although it was obvious that Scobie was hurt, it took doctors six weeks to diagnose the injury because X-rays failed to detect the fracture. Scobie spent an additional eight weeks in a cast, which was removed in June, but waited two more weeks before running again.
"No matter what happens, I want to think positive this year," she said. "Last year wasn't fun and I just want to forget about it."
But try as she might she can't forget the injury.
"It's still there, but it doesn't really bother me," Scobie said. "I can feel it but it doesn't hurt."
Because her running style may have caused the stress fracture, Scobie now wears shoes with specially made supports for the heel and arch that limit the angle at which her feet land.
"When she runs, her feet roll from the outside to the inside," Spraker said. "It's not easy to see because it doesn't happen all the time."
Her primary concern is getting back in shape. "I'm only at about 50% right now," she said. "I've got a long, long way to go.
"I want to make a big turnaround, I want to win the 3-A title. I've been second too many times."
TEAMS TO WATCH
THOUSAND OAKS: Coach Jack Farrell's teams have placed third, second and second in the past three Southern Section 4-A championships. Farrell had counted on the return this season of five of his top six runners, and another strong finish seemed likely. But junior Angie Lovell and sophomore Amee Edwards moved to Oregon, turning 1987 into a rebuilding year.
Despite the losses, Thousand Oaks is one of the top teams in the Valley area. The Lancers are led by senior Jena Haggenmiller, who placed seventh and sixth in the past two 4-A championships. Junior Mandy Kossoris, the fifth runner last season, moves up to the No. 2 position. Sophomore Santi Goetzinger and junior Tricia Mathiesen should be the team's third and fourth runners. Farrell said he is undecided on the No. 5 runner.
NEWBURY PARK: Although the Panthers placed fourth in the past two Southern Section 4-Achampionships, Coach Mike Stewart will be happy with a top-10 finish this season.