Eden Christian grad Gronbeck hopes to return from injury in time for Patriot League meet
Eden Christian graduate Lauren Gronbeck is eager to lead the Bucknell women’s cross country team to its fourth straight Patriot League title but might have to do it from the sideline.
Gronbeck, a junior, has been diagnosed with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, a rare vascular disease that affects the legs of some young athletes.
The condition causes the muscle and tendons near the knee to squeeze the main artery that runs through and behind the knee. She underwent surgery in May and is questionable for the league championship meet Oct. 27.
She placed 34th of 109 in the 6K run last season (22 minutes, 22.57 seconds).
“Thankfully, our team has so much depth, so many amazing and capable women who are ready to race,” Gronbeck said. “My main goal is to support my teammates in every way, whether that is pushing them in workouts, being a source of encouragement or, hopefully, being there for them in races.
“I would love to make the Patriot League roster, especially because the championship is being held at our home course.”
Gronbeck, the 2015 WPIAL Class A girls runner-up, said if she cannot compete, she will be the loudest cheerleader.
Gronbeck, who is 5-foot-4, said after about two miles into a race, her left leg goes completely numb from the knee down and she has to drag it. She took time off and is slowly getting back into shape.
She returned Sept. 29 for the Paul Short Run at Lehigh.
“Her training has been good, but we have to see if it translates for the races,” Bucknell coach Kevin Donner said. “Lauren has been an inspiration to our entire team.
“She has a very strong mindset and really sets a great example.”
Donner said the problem affected Gronbeck all last year, but she ran through it and scored for the Bison, who earned the league indoor track crown over the winter.
Gronbeck, a biology major, said the coaching staff, athletic trainers and her teammates have been supportive.
“(I) would love to know if there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.