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RCB's Beerbower struggles with back pain

by Shawn Yonker

SPORTS WRITER

Just six months ago, Robert C. Byrd's Kenny Beerbower was one of West Virginia's top distance runners. In his age group, the sophomore was one of the top runners in the country.

Now, however, his running days might be over due to three fractured lumbar in his spine.

It's hard to imagine a young person with back problems or how they occurred. The best person to explain it is Beerbower himself.

"I was training from the time I was in about the eighth grade," Beerbower said. "I'm the type of person who goes all out and goes beyond what the coaches tell me to do. I'd run a lot of 80-90 mile weeks, and that's a lot of running for a college runner let alone a high school runner.

"I have gone to 18 different doctors and a few of them told me there was a possibility I could run again. But each of them said that I might heal up and the cortisone shots that I have been on might help and might allow me to run, but might mess me up for life. I don't want to take a chance on not being able to walk again or not be able to do simple things just to run."

Last September, Beerbower ran in The Great Race in Pittsburgh, a 10K road race which had nearly 10,000 participants. He ran what he calls "the best race (he) ever ran," finishing in 32 minutes and 26 seconds. That was just 20 seconds off the American 10K record for his age group.

"After that my back really started bothering me," Beerbower said. "The next week, about two races later, I had a back spasm in the middle of a cross country race in Fairmont and ended up dropping out. That was the first race I ever dropped out of."

Beerbower went to the doctor and at the time they didn't think it was serious.

"They were thinking some muscles were torn or something," he said. "So I checked around a couple of more places, went through all the physical therapy and nothing really helped. I took about a week off in the middle of the season, and it didn't really give me any benefits so I went ahead and finished out the season."

After the season Beerbower decided to take about three months off.

In February, the sophomore tried some light running. After three months of rest his back was still hurting and he realized there was "really something wrong."

He went to a back specialist who ordered an MRI and a bone scan. Eventually a doctor in Morgantown pinpointed the problem.

Since finding out his running career might have ended, Beerbower has gone through some tough adjustments.

"Its been hard because from the time I was in the seventh grade running has been my life," Beerbower said. "That's what I have based everything around and the way that I had pretty much planned to go to college. I could have gotten a full scholarship to a lot of good schools and then I got this injury. It kind of makes you see that running is not everything. You have to find a way to get through life without running."

Beerbower has found other sports to occupy his time. He has always played baseball in the summer, but this spring, without track to prevent him from playing, he joined the RCB baseball and also took up boxing.

"If I'm not running, I'll probably play a little basketball," he said. "I have played that all my life. I just plan on doing a lot of things to keep going and fill up the time I used to run."

That's a lot of time.

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