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e’ve all run the junior high mile and experienced the same symptoms: the racing heart, frazzled muscles and the battle for mental sanity. In 10 minutes, the pain is gone. But for Ashlynn Yokom ’14, the pain lies deeper. Past the fatigue, personal struggles have allowed Yokom to learn how to push through and succeed in cross country. In eighth grade, Yokom was diagnosed with Sever’s disease, a condition where the heel bone grows faster than the foot muscle. Yokom continued to practice, believing it was just growing pains. But when Yokom visited the sports medicine clinic, she was put on crutches and a boot for two months. “[The injury] reminded me how hard it was that I couldn’t be a part of team,” Yokom said. Unable to participate, Yokom decided to quit the track team. Despite her frustration, she learned about running, just in time for freshman season to begin. But with injuries, Yokom said she “couldn’t even complete the workouts.” During her first high school track season, numerous MRIs and X-rays along with physical therapy confirmed that Yokom had a stress reaction, hairline fractures on her shins that were only a small fraction away from a stress fracture. “I knew my MRI results weren’t going to turn out well,” Yokom said. “At a team dinner, my mom told me that according to the MRI, I had to stop running … I had to tell Coach [Mike Parker] I couldn’t run for -Ashlynn the rest of the season, which was the hardest thing I had ever done. “Being on the team, but not being able to go on runs and having to do strength training by myself was hard … It was hard to even explain to everyone why I couldn’t run. I still wanted to compete with the team, go to meets, feel like I was part of the team,” Yokom said. “I don’t know why I love to run. It can be stressful at times, but I get so much out of it … I love the atmosphere. It’s

just a stress reliever, being around people who care about you makes you feel good about yourself.” After a year of injury, Yokom spent the summer reflecting and recovering. “It was such a long process; I just wanted to be done with my injury, but it seemed like there wasn’t enough Advil to fix the problem,” Yokom said. “Obviously, I wasn’t going to give up … All the friends I’d made, the good environment I was in and just the idea of quitting made me keep going.” Yokom blossomed in her 2012 track season. At her first meet of the season, Yokom qualified in the 3000m for the Drake Relays, a nationally-recognized track and field meet held in Des Moines. After crossing the finish line in first place, Yokom claimed, “I couldn’t believe myself. All that recovery, that wait was finally starting to pay off.” Yokom placed fifth. While Yokom considers her mother to be her biggest fan, she was unable to attend most of her cross-country meets during the 2012 season because she was expecting a child. On Sept. 1, Brooklyn Lilliann McClanahan, Yokom’s half-sister, was born at 5.5 pounds and six weeks premature. Brooklyn and Yokom’s mother lived in the prenatal intensive care unit for two weeks, where Brooklyn was put on oxygen, feeding tubes and received blood transfusions. During “the busiest part of the season,” Yokom visited her sister on a daily someYokom ’14 basis, times spending the night. “Obviously, the birth put a lot of extra weight on my family. It was stressful knowing my sister was in such a critical condition,” Yokom said. “When my mom wasn’t at the meets, neither was my biggest fan … but before a race, I would just think ‘If my week-old sister can fight through her life, then a 16-year-old can run a 4k.’” Despite stress at home, Yokom produced a number two ranking in the Iowa high school girls’ class

If my week-old sister can fight through her life, a 16-year-old can run a 4k.”



ABOVE: Finishing strong, Ashlynn Yokom ’14 sprints down the chute at the end of West’s home meet. She finished first overall and with a new meet record. 4A rankings in her junior cross country season. But, according to Yokom, it’s still hard to grasp how much competition there is. “I treat each competitor like they’re the number one ranked girl; I always want to do my very best,” she said. Yokom has broken five school course records. On Oct. 11, Yokom ran her PR, placing first and being awarded M.V.C. Cross Country Athlete of the Year. The following week, she became the regional champion.

“It was so great being able to transition back into running and being successful at the same time. My hard work was actually paying off,” Yokom said. With a new sister at home, Yokom has found the perfect balance between life and athletics. “She can’t talk back to me [like my mother],” Yokom laughed. “But I’ve always wanted a sister. She’s more than a sister, she’s a miracle baby and she’s helped me learn from all the troubles I’ve been through.”


Oct. 26, 2012  

The October 2012 issue of the West Side Story

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