By Zach Zaborny
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
A collegiate student-athlete has scholarship benefits, the chance to hone their skills, excel at a high level, compete for conference and national championships.
But what separates the athlete from the student is the ever-present possibility of an injury that could hinder or end the competitive part of the experience.
Kansas State cross country runner Sydney Messick suffered an injury but after an off-season of recovery she has bounced back with an amazing start to the 2009 season.
Messick, a junior from Topeka, Kan., finished second and fourth in the Wildcats' first two meets this fall. Considering she missed the 2008 season because of a stress reaction injury to her right foot prior, her performance thus far has been remarkable.
A runner since her freshman year of high school, missing a season of competition last year was difficult for Messick.
For someone who has been running since her freshman year of high school, having to sit out the first four weeks of the 2008 cross country season was something that Messick found hard to do. Once that time was over, however, she began the transition back into running for the indoor season.
"Once I got started again around the beginning of October, I was able to train most of the way through indoor, but started having some pain again in late January," said Messick, a junior majoring in dietetics. "I pushed through it, took two weeks off before indoor Big 12's so I could make it to the meet, then took another two weeks off afterward.
"I then ran one outdoor meet before going in for another MRI and discovering that the stress reaction was back in one location in my foot. I took off from about mid-way through April until I started summer cross-country training in June, so it was a very on and off year for training."
After a season shortened by injury, it's no surprise that Messick was anxious to get back with her teammates and continue her love of competitive running.
"My first day back to running was so exciting, even though it was only 10 or 15 minutes," Messick said. "I would have to say that the most exciting moment by far was being able to step on the starting line at the Big 12 meet with my teammates and race again.
"I don't think I've ever been more nervous because I knew that they had all been working so hard and doing workouts and I had been in the pool and working my way back into running. I had no idea what I'd be able to do and I didn't want to let them down."
Messick's recovery time was buttressed by her beliefs.
"The only thing that got me through was faith," said Messick. "God brought me through my injury and got me to the starting line and I knew He would give me the strength I needed to run that race."
With a strong faith, and a determination to always do her best, Messick is excited about the 2009 season.
"I am amazed at the desire and dedication of my teammates and we have some big goals this year," Messick said. "I just want to do whatever I can to help my team be more competitive at the Big 12 meet and beyond.
"If we all work together and encourage each other to reach our full potential, I know that we can reach any goal we set for ourselves. We're all here to work hard, but we have a lot of fun, too. It's just a really great environment all around. I love it."
After dealing with injuries last season and her strong start thus far, Messick is well on her way to making a big impact.
"Last year a few of us made a road trip to watch our only national qualifier, Beverly (Ramos), run at the NCAA meet," Messick said. "I would love it if we were all there running together this year."