2016 NXN South Regional - Several of Texas' best proved they were the nation's best in 2016
So, by now it's the news that has definitely been heard around the country. Nationally ranked distance runner Alex Maier had to drop out of the Texas UIL 6A state cross country.
Maier has a respiratory infection. The recovery process has begun and per Maier's father, "We are working with the doctor to get him well."
It's not a frequent occurrence for one of the top distance runners in the state and nation who happens to be the favorite to win the state meet but isn't able to finish the race due to sickness and more specifically an upper respiratory infection. Or, does it happen more often than you think?
Was the 2017 state meet a case of Texas Deja Vu?
In 2015, New Braunfels Canyon runner Sam Worley was in his junior year just like Alex Maier currently is. Worley went into the 2015 state meet as the favorite to win the individual race. Worley took off from the starting line and onto the course with the other state meet qualifiers who were also looking for a state championship. However, about a mile and a half into the race Worley would be forced to withdraw from the race much like Maier, and exactly like Maier, it was a respiratory infection that would temporarily affect his dreams of a state championship.
On Monday's MileSplit LIVE show, they guys discussed the Maier situation. They tossed around the topic of can Maier recover from the respiratory infection and still win a national title. Opinions varied as there were thoughts that Maier could recover and pick back up where he left off and then there were some contrary thoughts.
Travis Miller's opinion: A respiratory infection isn't as light of a situation that can be pushed under the rug. His ability takes a back seat to the recovery and how fast he can feel better and can he regain enough strength to compete against the best competition in the nation.
Per MedicineNet.com, upper respiratory infections (URIs) are one of the most common reasons for doctor visits and they have a variety of symptoms including but not limited to breathing difficulty and lethargy.
"The process was very difficult because it was championship season and I wanted so badly to race and compete but struggled so much in practice."
Sam Worley - University of Texas Freshman
Worley did return to action to compete in the 2015 Nike South Region where he finished sixth overall and qualified for NXN. NXN didn't go very well for Worley as he finished with a 16:01.90 for 75th place. By Worley's own admission, "I was able to qualify for NXN that year but still raced poorly because of how much the illness had taken out of me."
The effects weren't all physical. "Having to deal with disappointing races (my region and state race) made it even harder to stay positive", Worley said.
This gives credit to Miller's stance. Maier would need to take advantage of the the time between now and NXN South Regionals and/or Foot Locker South Regionals to recover and regain his strength. Worley's acknowledgment to the onset being around the time of his regional meet, which was about five weeks before the NXN meet. For Maier, it could end up being a three to our week difference depending on the initial onset and the meet he decides to run in.
"I was able to qualify for NXN that year but still raced poorly because of how much the illness had taken out of me."
Sam Worley - University of Texas Freshman
Alex Maier runs to a second place at the 2016 McNeil Invite behind Sam Worley
With respiratory infection striking again to one of Texas' superstars, is it just coincidence that it's at the exact same time of the season? "Although upper respiratory infections can happen at any time, They are most common in the fall and winter months, from September until March", according to MedicineNet.com.
So, how often does this really happen to runners? It is possible that it occurs more often that we think? It may happen to athletes who don't get the coverage or it might occur in meets that don't get the coverage that the state meet does and we just never know. Clearly, if a respiratory infection effects are significant enough to take down elite level runners like Maier and Worley then one could really damage younger athletes or athletes without as much fitness.
Although, I Look forward to Maier re-joining his Flower Mound team and possibly competing at the NXN South Region or at Foot Locker, that is only if he is fully recovered and regains adequate strength to compete up to his standards. But, just like his junior year is taking a page out of the book from Worley's junior season, I look more forward to his senior year emulating Worley's senior just as much.