Grunewald ready to race at nationals in middle of chemo
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Middle-distance runner Gabriele Grunewald has only missed one day of training since beginning chemotherapy earlier this month.
At times, it’s left her extremely fatigued. Never has it zapped her competitiveness.
Grunewald just wrapped up the first round of treatment for cancer that’s spread from her salivary gland to her liver. It wasn’t about to keep her from taking the starting line for the 1,500 meters on Thursday at the U.S. track and field championships.
Her expectations remain the same as ever — to be in the chase on the final lap.
“Though it would take quite an effort to make the final, I don’t think it is impossible,” Grunewald said . “If I feel good, I hope to mix it up. There’s also a chance I feel lousy, in which case I hope I can just enjoy being out on the track as a competitor for a few minutes. Either way, I’ll be happy to be out there.”
The 30-year-old Grunewald postponed chemotherapy a few weeks in order to go after the qualifying standard of 4 minutes, 9.50 seconds necessary for nationals. She fell just short, but was recently added when the field didn’t fill up and her time was among the fastest.
“My goal is to have a positive experience, overall, and celebrate the journey I’ve completed to get to the starting line,” said Grunewald, the 2014 U.S. indoor 3,000-meter champion, who lives in Minnesota.
Grunewald was diagnosed in 2009 with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a form of cancer in her salivary gland. It spread to her liver last August and returned again this spring. She started chemotherapy June 6. This was a scheduled off week from her treatments, before the second round begins on June 27.
“I wouldn’t say the training and racing in the midst of my treatment has been easy by any means, but I have definitely benefited from getting out the door every day and having races on my schedule,” Grunewald said. “Staying connected to the sport has been very important to me throughout this tough year of my life.”
She’s partnering with USA Track and Field along with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness through a campaign called “Together: Nothing Is Impossible.” Grunewald and two-time Olympic triple jump gold medalist Christian Taylor are featured in a public service announcement, encouraging Americans to contribute for each medal that Team USA earns at the world championships later this summer in London.
“Many people in the track and field community have been touched by cancer in some way and are ‘doers’ by nature,” Grunewald said. “This is a perfect way for us to make a difference this summer. It truly makes the medals mean more.”
Some things to know heading into nationals this week:
HEAT WAVE: The competition schedule Thursday has been altered with the temperature expected to reach triple digits most of the week. With a high of 107 degrees predicted, the men’s and women’s 10,000 meters events were pushed an hour later into the evening. The men’s event won’t start until 1:09 a.m. ET. The coolest day will be Sunday when it’s only supposed to be 97 degrees.
HEALING: Sprinter Justin Gatlin has been dealing with a quadriceps/groin injury since February. He wouldn’t put a percentage on his health as he plans to compete in the 100 and 200. “I’ve been to a lot of championships and trials and have not been 100 percent,” Gatlin said. “I’m where I need to be at.”
TICKETS PUNCHED: Being a world or Diamond League champion earned nine U.S. athletes automatic entries into the world championships. The defending world champions include Tianna Bartoletta (long jump), Allyson Felix (400), Joe Kovacs (shot put) and Taylor (triple jump). Those earning spots via the Diamond League are Kerron Clement (400 hurdles), Keni Harrison (100 hurdles), Erik Kynard (high jump), LaShawn Merritt (400) and Cassandra Tate (400 hurdles).
EXPECTING: Around five months pregnant with her second child, Alysia Montano is entered in the 800. Montano famously ran at the 2014 U.S. championships while 34 weeks pregnant and finished in 2 minutes, 32.13 seconds — nearly 35 seconds slower than her personal best of 1:57.34 in 2010.
THE NEXT SPRINT STANDOUT: With Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Merritt all in their 30s, this might be the season when some new faces emerge on the sprint scene. Keep a close watch on Tennessee standout Christian Coleman , who turned pro after recently winning the 100 and 200 at the NCAA championships.