After being sidelined by lengthy injury, redshirt senior Graves looks to make up for lost time
While most kids his age were coloring or learning to spell, Griff Graves ran his first 5K.
“I remember him saying, ‘I ran about a mile before, but I’m not sure how long this 5K is,’” Sandy Graves, his mother, said. “I knew the distance, but all he had to know was to run.”
He was 6 years old then.
Graves, now 22, is still running as a member of the Syracuse men’s cross country team. The redshirt senior and the Orange will run at the Toledo Inter-Regional Bubble Buster at 5 p.m. Friday in Ohio.
But his running career was almost cut short in 2009 when he suffered an injury that would sideline him from cross country for two years. Graves got out of bed and felt a pop in his left hip halfway through the track and field season.
“After it popped it hurt a little, I worked out that afternoon, it still hurt, but I was able to get through the workouts,”Graves said.
Ignoring the pain,Graves finished the rest of the season.
While training in summer 2010 for cross country, Graves noticed his hip getting worse.
“My hip started to get tighter and tighter as the season went on, and I couldn’t get my knees up for a press off,”Graves said.
Noticing the obvious difference in his performance, head coach Chris Fox decided to redshirt Graves for the 2010 cross country season until someone could figure out what was wrong with his hip.
In April 2011, Graves took an MRI and the doctors found he had a snapped labrum that would require surgery.
Graves’ father, Tom Graves, was on a trip with his wife to Atlanta,Ga., when his son called and told them the news.
“As much as I’d hate to say, it was kind of a like-father-like-son thing,” Tom Graves said.
Graves’ father was a cross country runner at Auburn University. He injured his heel sophomore year and it took two years before he could compete again.
Graves’ didn’t know it yet, but he would be out for a second year too.
In surgery, doctors found he had a bone spur and a torn ligament in addition to his torn labrum.
The pop Graves heard that morning was the sound of his ligament snapping. His injury got worse as he added more stress to it.
Graves never expected the news. But he didn’t let the additional recovery time deter him from running again.
“There were definitely times where he might have been frustrated, but he never gave up,”Graves’ younger brother, Dusty, said. “He kept up with all the things he needed to do to recover.”
Graves woke up early each morning to go to the pool and swim. He used a stationary bike to strengthen his hip muscles and completed his day’s rehabilitation in the Carmelo K. Anthony Center.
On an average day, Graves said he put in about four hours of rehabbing.
John Oliver, director of operations for the cross country team, assures the program never considered dropping Graves. Oliver believes Graves’ assets, even while he was injured, were worth more than losing him.
“When you have a guy like that, you find it’s better to stick with him because he brings a lot more to the table than what you see,” Oliver said.
At the start of the 2012 season, all eyes were on Graves’ return. He did not disappoint.
In the first invitational of the season,Graves finished second overall and was the top finisher for SU.
While Graves is modest about his victory, he is confident he has more left in him.
Said Graves: “Syracuse has been so supportive with keeping me here, so now I hope I can do what they’ve kept me here to do.”
Contact Melissa: email@example.com
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