In an instant, Brody Blackwell’s day became a nightmare.
About one mile into the three-mile Class 3A Minooka Regional cross country race Saturday, the Pekin junior fell hard onto a rocky path.
After taking a few seconds to regain his senses and focus, Blackwell raced again.
Somehow, he qualified for this Saturday’s Granite City Sectional.
The top five individuals not on the six qualifying teams advanced. Blackwell finished 21st among 70 runners in the regional race in 16:39.30 and was the fourth of five individual qualifiers.
The final individual qualifier was Joliet West’s Julian Rosenbach. He was timed in 16:41.10.
“For some runners, a fall like that would have been an excuse to drop out of the race,” said Pekin boys cross country coach Cole Stoner. “Not Brody. He wasn’t going to allow that to happen.”
The regional race was held on a wet course at Channahon Community Park that had standing water in three locations.
Blackwell said he had just emerged from standing water and his spikes were wet when a competing runner cut in front of him on the tight course.
“It wasn’t a malicious thing. It’s cross country. It’s a physical sport,” he said. “My foot hit a rock on a rocky path and I fell on the path.”
What kind of damage did the fall cause? Cuts on Blackwell’s right hand, elbow and hip, and a bruised hip.
After being down for what seemed like five seconds, Blackwell said, he returned to the race.
“Brody limped on his first three strides after he got up, then got back into rhythm,” said Stoner, who saw Blackwell’s fall.
It took a few moments for Blackwell to get his bearings after he fell. With good reason. Here’s how he described his fall:
“You’re going full speed, at a 5:20 to 5:30 per mile pace, then you come to a dead stop,” he said.
Blackwell said he was still bleeding slightly, but feeling better by the time the race ended.
He was nearly 100 percent physically as practice began this week.
Blackwell said he had fallen previously in races, but never while he was running for Pekin.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.