Feb. 15, 2012
By Megan Morgan
SEATTLE - After nearly eighteen months away from the track, the pair of Southern California middle distance talents took to the track for the first time donning the purple and gold at the UW Invitational on Saturday, January 28th. Absent of a year and half of running accolades, but still driven as ever by their innate competitor within.
In the sport of track and field there are those that like to train--to grind in workouts and to pound out the miles day in and day out--and there are those that live for race day. For Chloe Curtis and Sean Krinik, their passion lies in lacing up their spikes and standing on the starting line. Their world transforms completely when the gun goes off and they get the chance to compete for the win.
Both California state champions as seniors--Krinik in the 800 meters and Curtis in the 1600 meters--there wasn't a question in their minds that success would follow them onto the college running scene. Curtis was 2nd at 800 meters in the prestigious Arcadia Invitational her senior year, following that up with wins at CIF Finals and CIF Masters at 1600 meters. After winning the 800 meter state championship as a junior, Krinik went unchallenged in every race at 800 meters his senior year, capping off his season with a win at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. But as it often does, injury struck without a timeline or regard for the goals they had in mind.
Injury is hardly ever a positive in the career of a young, talented runner. They will certainly be the first to tell you that it wasn't always easy. Krinik was plagued by back problems leading up to his freshman year and then struggled continuously throughout the year with injuries from plantar fasciitis to knee pain, followed by a lingering viral sickness throughout much of the winter. For Curtis, it was a frustrating battle with stress fractures. Early in the fall of her freshman year, she was diagnosed with fractures in her foot and tibia. As if that wasn't enough, after a successful summer of training, her return to Seattle in August was met by a bout of Achilles tendonitis for much of this past fall.
But as Curtis reflected on her disappointing freshman year, in which she redshirted all three seasons (cross country, indoor and outdoor track), she said "It didn't pan out the way I wanted, but I feel like it wasn't quite my turn. It just wasn't the right time for me. I believe that things are meant to happen. I think that last year I was meant to struggle a lot. It has just postponed what I know I am still capable of."
With a nearly identical perspective on what injury has taught him, Krinik said he has learned that sometimes all it takes is that "one day" to keep him going. Krinik quotes Associate Head Coach Jason Drake, who tells him "You have that one good day and it reminds you what you're here for."
"J.D. is very logical," says Krinik. "He's able to wipe away all the smudges and say, `Yeah, see, there's still a window there'."
Even with days spent in the pool and on the bike, both athletes said they always had a massive support group of coaches and athletes to fall back on. Watching their teammates compete was a motivator. Watching teammates win made them hungrier to do it themselves. And if that wasn't enough, every coach, the athletes noted, offered some component that helped them get back on track.
Said Curtis, "(Head Coach Greg) Metcalf is always really inspiring as a coach. He lets you know that he believes in you 100%. When he tells you that you can do something, it's really powerful."
For Curtis and Krinik, they are now left with a simple question--how will they let the past year and a half of struggles define the future of their running careers?
Krinik says it has taught him to appreciate what he has while he has it--to realize that you need to seize every opportunity and accept what you are able to accomplish on any given day. For Curtis, stepping back on the track has only wakened the sleeping competitor within.
Asked what has kept her going, Chloe Curtis's eyes glistened with emotion. With her words came belief and confidence that go beyond just the desire to win medals. Her emotion spoke to the passion she has for competition and the calling she has to the sport of track and field. "I love it, I have a huge passion for it. I just believe 100% that I am meant to compete in track. I feel like I could be great."
What will ultimately make them great is precisely the drive, the desire, and the passion that has kept them believing in their ability over the course of multiple injury setbacks. The simple thought of standing on the starting line, hearing the gun go off, and having complete and clear understanding of the task at hand. To the true competitor, that is the power of racing.
Krinik says he's not worried about racing, but that getting to the starting line is always his main goal and his greatest challenge. "I'm not worried about racing, because that's what I love to do. When I get there, I'm nervous but my head is always in the right place. I just have to get to where the gun goes off and then I know exactly what to do."
It is one thing to possess a high level of talent, and it is another to have the passion to fuel that talent. To the outsider, it may have seemed as though the fire within the pair of high school superstars had long since died out. But all it took was one spark to be reignited; one chance to lace up and stand on the starting line. Chloe Curtis and Sean Krinik may have been off the scene for a while, but with a deadly combination of talent and passion to fuel their fight, there is no question that they are not simply back in uniform, but back to competing for what it's all about: winning.