Injury knocks Camas runner out of state meet

Katelyn Flolo is 'running smarter' with hopes of competing in track and field events this spring

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Camas High School senior Katelyn Flolo cut more than one minute from her times during the 2021 cross country season and established herself as one of the Papermakers' leaders. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Most athletes believe in the “practice makes perfect” proverb, which states that people can become better at something if they do it over and over again. But in the past year, Camas High School cross country runner Katelyn Flolo has realized that less is more when it comes to maximizing her talents and, more importantly, taking care of her body.

In June 2020, doctors diagnosed Flolo with a stress reaction in her left tibia, an injury most likely caused by overuse. Since then, she’s not running as much as she used to. But she’s running smarter.

“Having a ‘You need to run hard, but you also need to take care of your body’ (mindset) was definitely a learning process,” said Flolo, a Camas High senior. “(I had to learn) how to give myself enough rest and recovery while still trying to improve. I recognized that even if I want to keep running, sometimes it’s best to take a little break because I don’t want to overdo it and (get taken out of) running longer than I would’ve if you just would’ve taken a few days off.”

Flolo’s 2021 season came to a disappointing end after the injury flared up at the worst possible time, days before the 4A District 3-4 race in Tacoma, Washington, on Oct. 30. She won’t run at the 4A state meet, to be held Saturday, Nov. 6 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, Washington, but will contribute to the Papermakers’ success in other ways, according to Camas coach Laurie Porter.

“She’s really encouraging to the others,” Porter said. “She wasn’t able to race the district meet, and she was there to cheer for her teammates, and that was really great to see. It’s not all about her. She’s definitely a team player. It’s been sad to see the setbacks, but in spite of them, her positive attitude toward everything is really encouraging to see. She is taking it very well, though. (Getting healthy for the track and field season) is definitely her goal.”

Flolo didn’t quite match the times she put up as a sophomore, when she established herself as one of the most promising young runners in Clark County by finishing 27th at the 4A state meet, this fall. But she improved her 5,000-meter time by more than one minute from her first race of the season (21 minutes, 42 seconds, Sept. 14) to her last (19:28 on Oct. 9).

“As a freshman she had a goal of breaking 20 (minutes), and it happened her sophomore year. We were really thrilled for her, and we knew she was someone to definitely watch,” Porter said. “She’s had a steady progression from the beginning of the season, cutting her times down each meet. I saw nothing but success going forward. I think she had the potential to break 19 minutes this year. She definitely was on a really good course to do very well because she just kept bringing those times down and kept getting fitter and fitter toward the end of the season.”

“Last season I was coming off an injury, so my times were about two minutes off from my PR from sophomore year,” Flolo added. “This year I was just trying to get back into the 19-minute range, and I was able to achieve that, so I was pretty proud of myself.”

Doctors told Flolo to “not do anything that hurts” for a sustained period of time after diagnosing her with the injury in the summer of 2020. Following that advice, she didn’t run for the next six weeks, a “challenge” for an active teenager used to daily physical activity.

“After that, I had to be aware that my weekly mileage shouldn’t be as high as it was,” she said. “Different weekly mileage and workout plans work for different people, and I think I was just trying to go too much for my own body. Sophomore year, I was focused on getting a lot of mileage, so I would go on longer runs than I do now. It was definitely a learning curve because you do need some longer runs; those are important, and a lot of the time, increasing mileage can help you get better. But you have to find the sweet spot for yourself and your body and your lifestyle.”

She’s embraced a “quality over quantity” approach to training that not only kept her healthy up until her recent setback, but allowed her to improve and remain competitive.

“Now I take my workout days hard and my ‘easy’ days easy,” Flolo said. “I don’t try to do too many miles or add up too many hours during the week. … It just took time to get back into a routine of running and racing. But I think I’m pretty much there.”

She’s always been comfortable with the “running” part of cross country and track and field. The “racing” part, however, gave her problems for a while. But she’s learned to embrace her competitive nature thanks in part to the help of her teammates.

“Racing used to make me really nervous,” she said. “I was almost scared of racing. I would struggle a lot and feel that I wasn’t very competitive. I would be really nervous about how I would perform. But now I think of it as a fun challenge, and a lot of that has to do with my teammates — it’s really nice to have (people around you) who can help you have fun and get you out of your own head. I feel my racing has improved. I’m able to focus more and not be so scared.”

Flolo has become a “fierce competitor,” Porter said. “She’s got such a (strong) work ethic,” she said. “She’s a top-notch runner, always very committed to training. She’s an outstanding athlete and teammate. In her training, she is very business-like to her approach. She knows what she has to do and what pace she has to hit, and she makes adjustments. She’s a very smart runner and competes very well.”