The pain started in her left leg during her senior year at Bishop Canevin. It was as frustrating as it was debilitating for cross country runner Becca Volz — so frustrating she considered not running in college.
Waynesburg coach Chris Hardie, however, was persistent. He was convinced Volz could be an asset to his program, which, in 2016, ended Grove City’s 27-year reign as Presidents’ Athletic Conference champion.
Through most of her freshman season with the Yellow Jackets, Volz still felt the effects of her leg issues, which turned out to be the result of varicose veins and required two operations. Then, during her sophomore season in 2018, she dealt with an abdominal strain.
Toward the end of last season, Volz finally started to return to full health. She finished 14th in the PAC championship race, earning second-team honors and helping Waynesburg win its third consecutive title.
That carried over into track and field season last spring, when she finished fifth in the PAC in the 1,500-meter run and helped Waynesburg win its fourth straight title.
“She’s got a lot of grit and resolve to get through that,” Hardie said. “We’re happy this year because she’s finally healthy.”
Volz hopes good health will help her to reach her full potential.
In Waynesburg’s first two meets of the 2019 season, Volz turned in strong performances. She earned a 10th-place finish —out of 127 runners — in helping the Jackets win the Westminster Fisher Invitational and took 14th out of 202 runners as the team finished second at the Bethany Invitational behind Division II Davis & Elkins.
In both races, she was Waynesburg’s No. 2 runner.
“I feel very strong this season so far,” Volz said. “Finishing in the spot I did last year at PACs definitely motivated me because now I’m motivated to be on the first team. It got me excited to run again.”
Hardie said he had been trying to keep a rein on her training this fall, but she pushed back, insisting she is healthy enough to train harder. Hardie granted her wish but said he tries to keep the right mix of workouts so she doesn’t overdo it.
“Being able to train through the entire summer has really helped me build up my athleticism.” she said.
Preserving her health is important, Hardie said, not only for the team’s success but for what he believes can be a strong ending to Volz’s collegiate career.
Waynesburg’s run as PAC champion was spearheaded by twin sisters Emily and Katie Latimer. Emily Latimer became the program’s first individual champion in 2016, and Katie was right behind in that historic PAC meet in which the Yellow Jackets took eight of the top 10 spots to dethrone Grove City.
The capability he saw in the Latimers mirrors what he sees in Volz.
“(Theirs) is the same progression I would expect in Becca,” he said. “I hate setting an expectation so high, but we really expect to see that.”
Volz expects it from herself as well. If she can stay healthy, she believes she can get her times into the 23-minute range — though Hardie said sub-23 is not out of the question. In doing those things, she is confident the Yellow Jackets can win a fourth consecutive PAC title and she can achieve first-team status.
“I feel like this is the year for me,” she said.
“I think we work with potential a lot in this sport, and then you have to kind of figure out the real side of it,” he said. “Potential has to turn into performance, and she’s right there now. We’re really excited to see where she is going.”