Wilvers’ comeback is inspirational
Running by itself can be plenty painful.
Saddled with slow-healing stress fractures to his back and left foot, the sport that defined Hudson Wilvers at South Tahoe High and South Tahoe Middle School was beginning to become a nuisance for the Long Beach State University athlete.
But running is in Wilvers’ blood and if allergies and exercise-induced asthma didn’t prevent him from running at a high level in high school, why would a few hairline broken bones make him stop in college?
“I definitely thought at one point that I wasn’t going to heal and I wasn’t going to run,” said Wilvers, now a junior athletically for the 49ers. “That was a very long time to be out for an injury. Six weeks is the usual.
“My dad and mom were always supporting me through that, and coaches and teammates helped encourage me.”
That inspiration was necessary as Wilvers suffered several setbacks on his way back from three years removed from cross country competition and two years away from track and field. He saw enough doctors’ offices and empty swimming pools to last him a lifetime.
But it was worth the effort.
His perseverance was rewarded last spring when he ran the 800 meters for the 49ers’ track and field team and then again this fall when he posted two solid results for the cross country team. His 8-kilometer time of 25 minutes, 31 seconds placed Wilvers 57th in a stacked Stanford Invitational and strengthened his spot on this fall’s team. It also was his personal-best time for the second straight meet.
In his season-opening race, Wilvers finished 33rd overall with a time of 27:00.80, which equaled his personal best from 2003.
“He’s running really well, all things considered,” said Long Beach State distance coach Matt Roe. “He’s really lost three years. Once you sustain an injury you are that much further from the experience of running well: your fitness, what it is like to compete and all the skills you’ve gained when race ready.”
Wilvers said a combination of factors contributed to his body breaking down once he entered college. The product of overdoing his training without a proper base and several biomechanical problems were the culprits.
“You don’t have lot of mileage under you going into college and I started running a lot on asphalt, and I don’t think my body was ready for that,” said Wilvers, who still owns STHS records in the 800 and 1,600 meters.
An improper foot fall led to his dual L5 back fracture – an injury that was likely caused by not having orthotics in his running shoes. The back injury was the most time-consuming injury as 10 months elapsed between diagnosis and healing. The multiple stress fractures were nearly as frustrating because Wilvers wasn’t one to sit around and let the bone gradually heal. If he couldn’t run, he wanted to mountain bike.
After finally getting healthy last spring, Wilvers didn’t have the conditioning to run the 1,500 but was able to compete in the 800 for LBSU. He finished ninth in the Big West Conference meet and set a 1:54.2 personal record.
“The biggest thing Hud’s circumstances have shown me is that running through injury requires a perseverance that doesn’t always equal performance success,” said South Tahoe High girls’ cross country coach Dan Wilvers, Hudson’s father. “I used to teach that if you worked hard enough you would be successful. Now, I teach that hard work doesn’t guarantee success, but hard work and perseverance will give you something more valuable – character – and character will go with you the rest of your life.”
More concern arose last May when Wilvers began experiencing pain in his left foot. Luckily, it turned out to be a bruised tendon. The injury, however, prevented Wilvers from resuming offseason training until mid-July, cutting into the base he had hoped to have for his redshirt junior cross country season.
“It was a matter of him getting healthy and making sure he was doing the things to take care of himself, listening to his body and understanding good pain and bad pain and not being headstrong as in the past,” Roe said.
Wilvers’ fast start in cross country this fall has guaranteed him a spot in the Oct. 28 conference meet in San Louis Obispo and a shot at qualifying for the Western Regionals Nov. 11 in Portland, Ore.
Roe is pleased with Wilvers’ progress and foresees an even more promising future for him.
“I would never give up on guy like Hudson; he’s got drive and potential,” Roe said. “I think he can really contribute for us this fall and hopefully take that into track. I think there’s great potential at end of his career to do some things he will be really proud of.”