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Sprinter Matthew Bedford’s biggest burden has always been his hamstring, but with a healthy body, he hopes that he can finally avoid a season plagued with injuries.
The redshirt sophomore is training hard to come back from a torn hamstring he suffered right before winter break. For Bedford, this was not the first time he experienced a sudden collapse onto the track and stinging pain shooting down his leg. He also tore his hamstring last year, and the year before that.
The injuries began in Bedford’s freshman year, during his first college track meet in New Mexico. On a banked indoor track, Bedford crumpled to the ground after pushing too hard into the curve.
“I heard a loud snap,” Bedford said. “It was a click, click, snap. I’ll never forget that.”
A torn hamstring left him sidelined the entire season, but Bedford returned his redshirt freshman season after putting in a summer of hard work. Just before the 2011-12 indoor season began, Bedford felt the same hamstring bothering him again. And when he tested it out in practice, his leg gave in after 85 meters, tearing the scar tissues in his left hamstring that had never fully healed.
After consecutive hamstring injuries, Bedford decided that he had to be proactive with his body. He began a strict healthy diet, picked up yoga and made the training room his second home.
“I’m pretty sure the trainers are really annoyed with me because I’m always in there,” Bedford said. “I’m either icing my hamstring, getting deep tissue massages or stretching it out, just doing a ridiculous amount of rehab on it.”
Despite the care and dedication he put into his body, Bedford began developing tendonitis in his right ankle as he was preparing for the 2012-13 season. He soon began to overcompensate for his right leg. Right before the beginning of the indoor season, again Bedford heard a snap. This time, it was his right hamstring.
Sophomore sprinter Wally Rodriguez did not sense any signs of frustration from Bedford over his string of injuries – instead, a relentless work ethic has guided Bedford through the rehabilitation process.
“He’s been handling it pretty well,” Rodriguez said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I know on the team. He does everything to take care of his body and to get back on the track as fast as he can.”
But inside, Bedford’s blood boils. He has not run a complete season since his senior year in high school. He has been sacrificing so much time and changing his lifestyle to better prepare for competition. Even with such dedication to track, Bedford has only a handful of meets under his belt.
“It’s upsetting, it’s definitely upsetting,” Bedford said. “When I’m at my lowest, I feel like this is a waste of my time. I’ve done everything I possibly can, and it’s just not working.”
But Bedford continues to push through. He attributes his ability to put behind both the mental and physical pain to his passion for track.
“I want to be back to where I know I can be, and I want to get faster,” Bedford said. “College is a whole different ballgame. It’s just a whole new level of competition and I want to be a part of that. On my good days, it feels beautiful that I’m coming back.”
While three hamstring injuries in three years could be seen as a trend, teammates insist otherwise. Rodriguez and Bedford feel that the new coaching staff has set a different mentality for the team. Both runners agree that the group may have been overworked in past years, possibly contributing to Bedford’s slew of injuries.
“Now, we train with (assistant) coach (Johnny) Gray,” Rodriguez said. “His coaching is different. Bedford should be ready to go and actually compete the whole outdoor season.”
As for Bedford’s current torn hamstring, junior distance runner Daniel Herrera expressed sympathy for Bedford’s poor fortune as Bedford slowly begins to run at 100 percent again.
“He raced when he only had one or two weeks of solid training under him,” Herrera said. “So I’m sure that it was tough to be put out there to race when he’s only been training strongly and smoothly for a short amount of time.”
Bedford’s love for track and his competitive spirit keeps him going through the six to eight hours spent each day dedicated to his sport. From the practices to the rehab to the weight room, he is doing everything he can to get back into top shape.
“It’s just frustrating for me,” Bedford said. “I love my teammates, but it’s frustrating seeing guys that you train with every day and who you used to be just as fast as ahead of you.”
For now, Bedford is focused on getting to 100 percent and back into competitive shape. With the conclusion of the indoor season, Bedford is more optimistic as he sets his sights on getting back in time for the outdoor season.
“Indoor hasn’t been kind to me, that’s always when I tear my hamstring,” Bedford said. “I’m doing what I need to do to get back in shape for outdoor season. All I know is that my junior year and senior year have to be big years for me.”
Correction: The first two paragraphs of this article were missing.