CHAMPAIGN – A lingering foot injury is casting doubt on whether All-Big Ten Conference runner Jason Zieren will compete this season for the University of Illinois cross-country team.
The fifth-year senior had hoped to return to action today for the Iowa State Classic at Ames. However, Zieren continues to experience pain in his left foot and will remain sidelined, UI coach Gary Wieneke said.
"As each succeeding week goes by, the likelihood of him rejoining us for cross-country is slimmer, but it hasn't been ruled out," Wieneke said.
Today's meet will be Illinois' last of the regular season. The postseason opens Nov. 1 with the Big Ten Championships.
Zieren met with doctors this week and learned that a stress fracture of the fourth metatarsal bone has healed significantly. However, the X-ray also revealed a bone spur in his left heel. When Zieren first was examined in early September, doctors suspected inflammation of the plantar fascia – a sheet of fibrous tissue along the sole of the foot. That inflammation, apparently caused by the spur, reappeared after Zieren was allowed to resume running.
"Just when we get one problem under control, we're back to the spur giving him problems," Wieneke said.
One option Zieren could take is to have his left shoe fitted with an orthotic device that would cushion the heel area.
But with Zieren's entire regular season now lost and the foot still giving him problems, he may decide to sit out the rest of the year and concentrate on getting healthy for the track season. Last spring, the Carmi native placed fourth in the 10,000-meter run and sixth in the 5,000 at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
In women's cross-country, Fonzino back
Danielle Fonzino will return to action today, but three Illini are being withheld from the Iowa Invitational in Iowa City.
UI coach Michelle Byrne has decided to play it cautious with Candace Nicholson, Tara Mendozza and Lindsay Martin – all middle-distance runners in track.
"Iowa's a rather hilly and demanding course," Byrne said. "Not that they can't handle it, but when we go to the Big Ten meet at Ohio State, it flattens out again. Plus, they've responded to two weeks off between meets, and I think we'll follow the same strategy."