Senior overcomes injuries to excel _lowres

Photo provided by St. Michael High School -- Haley Gregoire, in red, runs in the state cross country meet in 2012. Gregoire placed fourth in the meet despite having injuries that prevented full-time training.

St. Michael the Archangel High School senior Haley Gregoire finished her track season with a fifth-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the Class 4A state meet, but that number tells only part of the story, according to a news release from the school.

Gregoire suffered several injuries throughout her high school track career that limited her training but overcame them and excelled, St. Michael cross country and track coach Neil Borel said.

“Her entire career at St. Michael has been a delicate balance between training at intensity and resting her legs after injuries. She has run fewer miles than most of my elite runners over the years, and there is only one runner in my long coaching career that could possibly beat her,” Borel said.

Borel’s first impression of Gregoire was a lasting one. At a time trial early in her freshman year, she beat all of the girls and most of the boys, he said.

“You could tell she was special right from the beginning,” Borel said. She had mental toughness, a strong work ethic and exemplified a “no pain, no gain” attitude from the start, according to a news release from the school.

Toward the end of her freshman year, Gregoire developed her first stress fracture.

“That really slowed down my training,” she said. “I just wouldn’t let it slow me or my pace down, though.” She ran the Metro meet in November of that year with the fracture in her ankle and still placed 29th in the girls’ division.

“I just wanted to run. I couldn’t stand just standing there,” she said. Gregoire placed 24th at the state meet, helping St. Michael win a state title in cross country in 2010.

Doctors diagnosed a bone growth issue — her bones were not fully developing, which caused recurring ankle and knee injuries — that sidelined her during her sophomore year, according to the release.

Gregoire came back her junior year and quickly developed another stress fracture. Though she could not run, she continued to cross-train. “I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to let it stop me, that I wasn’t going to stop,” she said.

Gregoire ran but didn’t place in the 2012 Metro meet but still placed fourth at the state meet that year, contributing to another St. Michael state title.

During her 2013 season, Gregoire overcame perhaps her biggest obstacle — a case of plantar fasciitis.

Though she was able to run only once a week, she placed second at the Metro meet and fourth in the state meet.

Borel illustrated Gregoire’s tenacity with a story about a cross-country race at Port Hudson State Park.

“It rained hard for two days prior and throughout the meet. The course was a soupy mess, and we had never been there before,” Borel said. “I cautioned the athletes to expect slower race times due to the mud. Haley sometimes doesn’t hear me say ‘slow down,’ and she proceeded to run her regular, hard pace.

“When she finished so far ahead of everyone else, the race officials assumed the rest of the athletes got lost in the woods and sent a four-wheeler to find them.Turns out, everyone else was slowed by the course conditions, but not Haley. She is modest, fearless, elite and coachable. SMHS may never see another like her.”

Dealing with injuries still took a toll, both physical and mental, Gregoire said, and she plans to pursue a career in nutrition and physical therapy.

“With all the challenges I’ve endured throughout high school, I feel I need to help others get through their challenges and be an example of what they can accomplish with a little resilience,” Gregoire said.

Gregoire is the SMHS record holder at 3 miles in cross-country with a time of 18:47 at Highland Road Park.