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Illness knocks Mansfield’s Columbare off track at URI

Illness knocks runner off track

Lauren Columbare (inset) was three quarters of the way through the one-mile race during an indoor meet at the University of Rhode Island this winter when her legs suddenly gave out.

“I physically couldn’t move,’’ recalled Columbare, a freshman distance runner from Mansfield. “I knew I was capable of going faster, but I didn’t understand why I wasn’t.’’

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A two-time Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Week running cross-country last fall, Columbare made a visit to her doctor. The diagnosis: low ferritin.

Ferritin, a protein that stores iron for later use by the body, is an important ingredient for runners. Low ferritin levels have been known to cause unexpected fatigue or “heavy legs,’’ and Columbare’s test revealed she was carrying less than half of the ferritin level of a normal female.

“It was very frustrating,’’ she said. “I was doing all the workouts perfectly but in the race my body would give out. So [the diagnosis] made sense.’’

Columbare believes her condition might have been a result from limiting red meat in her diet. Her doctor prescribed iron supplements, and the URI freshman, a former indoor champion at Mansfield High, has resumed training for the indoor season.

She’s still not quite back to normal, needing extra rest in between workouts, but she entered an unattached race at Brown University this weekend and hoped to stretch it out.

“It’s all too common in distance runners, especially female distance runners,’’ URI coach Laurie Feit-Melnick said. “I have altered her training and she is sitting out this outdoor season.’’

A strong middle distance runner - she ran a 5:08 mile in high school - Columbare hopes to be back in form to run a few 5,000-meter races, unattached, this season. “She has an incredible work ethic,’’ said Derek Ellis, who coached Columbare at Mansfield High. “I’m sure she’ll do great.’’

Felled by mono

Kristen McDonagh (inset), who ran with Columbare at Mansfield High, has been experiencing a parallel setback at Boston College.

McDonagh was diagnosed with mononucleosis on March 9 and was only recently cleared to begin running again. She has focused on the high jump and 60-meter hurdles at BC, though she hasn’t been allowed to train in fear of a fall that could rupture her spleen.

“It’s been tough watching my friends go to practice and not being able to,’’ she said. “Being tired all the time isn’t fun, but there’s nothing I can do about it so it’s not worth getting mad over.’’

McDonagh expects to begin competing again following Easter break, though Boston College coach Randy Thomas is looking forward to what she could bring to the team after a full year of college training.

“Having been involved with our program for one year, she has a better idea of what it takes to remain competitive at this level,’’ Thomas said. “Being one year older and stronger will allow her to increase her work load.’’

Anemia, thyroid issues

Dartmouth freshman Jill Corcoran (inset), who holds records at Weymouth High in the mile (5:04), the outdoor 2-mile (10:54), and the indoor 2-mile (11:14), has battled health problems of her own during her first collegiate season.

Corcoran had anemia as well as a thyroid issue, but finally feels healthy this spring as she regains form for the Ivy League schedule.

“She’s a pretty tough kid,” said Dartmouth track coach Mark Coogan, who represented the US at the ’96 Olympic Games in the marathon. “Her stomach was upset after an interval, so she threw up in a trash can around the corner and jumped out in the next interval and hopped right back in. So I like that. She’s one of our top freshmen for sure.’’

Corcoran said her times haven’t been as good as they were in high school, but physically she feels in much better shape. She’s lined up to run the 1,500-meter at the Sam Howell Invitational at Princeton next weekend.

“I’m definitely learning,’’ she said. “I have a lot of goals I’m trying to reach. Freshman year is a big transition and I’m surrounded by inspirational people. Things are looking good.’’

Achilles’ injury

Viviana Hanley (inset), who finished second in the 2-mile at the All-State meet running for Bishop Feehan last spring, has impressed as a freshman at Harvard. She posted two top-20 finishes during cross-country in the fall, and, after battling an Achilles injury this winter, was set to compete in the Tufts Invitational Saturday. She was aiming to beat her personal record, 17:41, in the 5K.

“In high school, often I was doing workouts by myself mostly and I had to learn how to push myself without a lot of competition on a daily basis,’’ she said. “Here it’s kind of the opposite.’’

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