CHAMPAIGN — Two years ago, Alysha Bartosh wasn't running and winning 5K races. In fact, she wasn't running at all.
The Oakwood native, now living in Tampa, Fla., was born with a defect that made her right foot point to the right at a 90-degree angle. Her right knee pointed the opposite direction.
"They said in the womb, I was very cramped," Bartosh said. "As I grew older, the kneecap would actually lock behind the left knee, which would cause bruising. I couldn't run."
She lived with the condition for most of her 30 years. It made even walking difficult. Going down stairs, Bartosh would have to take steps sideways.
"No sports," said Bartosh, who went to school at Danville First Baptist. "I had it since birth. When you're born with that, you don't think anything different."
Tired of the condition and the limitations it placed on her, Bartosh sought help. She went to orthopedic surgeons, who suggested a plan that would have included intentionally breaking her hip and ankle bones. "No thanks," Bartosh said.
"They said it would be about six months to a year of casts," Bartosh said. "It just wasn't appealing to someone who likes to be active."
Finally, she turned to somebody closer. With the help of her father/doctor, Danville chiropractor Robert Bartosh, Alysha had nonsurgical treatment that fixed her right leg.
Two years after her first race, which she ran in 45 minutes, Bartosh cut the time a bit Friday night by 25 minutes to win the Christie Clinic 5K on the Illinois campus.
Bartosh won in 20 minutes, 5 seconds, eight seconds faster than runner-up Kathy Daniels of Paris.
Mike Ptack of Elmhurst was first in the men's race, clocking a 15:32.
That was 48 seconds ahead of Bloomington's Michael Straza. James Kubisiak of Savoy was third.
Bartosh finished the 2010 race in 23:24. She was hoping to break 20 minutes this year. Oh well, she'll be back in 2012.
Free to run as much as she wants, Bartosh now is working with a coach in the Pittsburgh area, Phil Thompson. She also spends time with her dad, who runs the Pro-Active Wellness & Injury Centre in Danville.
"It feels wonderful now," she said. "I have no complaints. It feels completely different."
Bartosh drove to this year's race from Pittsburgh, where she does business. Before the treatments on her leg, she wouldn't have been able to make the drive.
The treatments on her leg required a commitment from Bartosh. After a few sessions, she was able to walk straight and run for a short time.
"He documented it all and took photos," Bartosh said. "I said, 'When this gets fixed, no one is going to believe this.' "
The muscles in her right leg remained sore for a few months.
"The first six months of training, it required exercises on my part," Bartosh said.
Since the treatment on her leg, Bartosh has placed in every race she has entered. She won a 5K in November in Indianapolis, her first win.
Bartosh can run longer distances but prefers the 5Ks.
"I'm a very busy person, and I'm very frugal with my time," Bartosh said. "I love getting in and getting it done. I love the 5K. That's my passion for right now, and I hope it is for a very long time."
In last year's race, Bartosh started farther back in the field and wasn't able to make up the ground. On Friday, she moved quickly toward the front.
"I tried to control the first mile," Bartosh said.
Daniels was ahead of Bartosh until just before they entered Memorial Stadium.
"I just tried to hold it from there," Bartosh said.
Ultimately, Bartosh wants to run a 5K in 18:40. She promises to get there, maybe next week in the Indianapolis 500 5K.
Bartosh had fans in the stands rooting her on, including her dad, mom and brother, who flew up from Tampa.
When she isn't breaking her own PR, Bartosh is a specialist in performance nutrition. She travels as a wellness consultant.
"Being healthy and active is in my blood," Bartosh said. "When I wasn't able to do something, it kind of ate at me a little."
Men's winner Ptack has been to the Christie Clinic event in the past but not as a participant. After cheering his friends on the first two years, the former Elmhurst College runner decided to give the race a try.
"I was just trying to run a good, hard effort," Ptack said. "You never know who is going to be at the race. I think I ran pretty well today."
Ptack wants to be a teacher, but the 2009 graduate is working in the deli department at a Jewel grocery store. He also serves as a volunteer track coach at York High School.
"I don't eat the meat when I'm (at Jewel), so that helps," Ptack said. "I get plenty of time to train."
Ptack's real love is the steeplechase. But he runs a number of 5Ks.
"I've won a couple before," Ptack said. "This is definitely the biggest one I've won."
He especially liked the way the race ended. He came into Memorial Stadium at 6:45, well in front of the rest of the pack.
"I've never had a stadium finish before, so it was really fun turning the corner and coming in with everybody cheering," Ptack said.
On campus, Ptack heard cheers from the fraternities on campus and the people lining the streets.