By Mike Blackerby
That black cloud that dogged Catholic’s Callie Tucker for the better part of her running career finally lifted.
After two years of battling injuries, a finally healthy Tucker ascended to the pinnacle of high school cross country during her senior season with the Lady Irish.
The Tennessee signee served notice that this might be a special season by winning the KIL championship in October.
Tucker then handled the Division II Large Schools field with ease on the Nashville Steeplechase Course in November.
She won the 5K race in 18:56, finishing 22 seconds in front of second place Be Guillamondegui of Harpeth Hall.
But the path to the victory podium wasn’t easy for Tucker, the 5Star Preps girls cross country runner of the year.
As a sophomore, Tucker suffered a freakish injury right before the KIL meet.
She fractured her spine while doing squats during her weight-lifting routine.
“I had to take four weeks off with no physical activity and seven weeks off with no running,” explained Tucker.
“I wasn’t even able to carry my back pack at school the first four weeks,” she said.
“It was really hard – it was the first injury I really faced.”
With the help of coaches, friends and family, Tucker began the rehab process.
“I had great support,” she said.
“I started to slowly build back up.”
Tucker was well on her way to recovery when the injury bugaboo struck again.
“Near the end of the summer I started getting some foot pain,” she recounted.
The diagnosis: a stress fracture.
“The first day of school I was put in a boot. My first race of the season was at KIL.”
Tucker went on to finish 14th in the state meet as a junior.
She kept her fingers crossed entering her senior year.
Could she finally realize her potential with an injury-free season?
“She was finally able to train through the winter, spring and summer and get her work in,” said Catholic coach Sean O’Neil.
“We felt like she was about a year behind, but we always knew she had that potential. I think of all she has worked through to get where she is.”
Considering the struggles she fought through, O’Neil said it was a joy to watch Tucker finally have success at the highest level.
“She’s one of those kids who has worked so hard you want to see her be successful,” he offered.
Looking back, Tucker said overcoming obstacles likely made her a better and more determined runner.
“It just made me appreciate what I have,” she said, “and how much I really enjoy it.”