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Track and Field: Pasko hopes injury battles are over

Injuries, injuries, injuries.

Max Pasko has had more than his share of them over the past two years. Pasko, a sprinter for the Southold/Greenport high school boys winter track team, knows only too well what an obstacle injuries can present to a sprinter.

Last year Pasko satisfied the qualifying time to compete in the Long Island Elite Indoor Meet’s 55-meter dash. The only thing was, his body had other plans. Because of a battle with Piriformis syndrome, a condition that causes compression of the sciatic nerve, the junior had to bow out.

It was a great disappointment to him.

Pasko said a cure for the condition was found, and he no longer has an issue with Piriformis syndrome. This season, however, he has been plagued by troublesome hamstring problems. Injuries, he said, have been a “major problem.”

It started with a minor hamstring strain at the beginning of the season, he said. Then, before the championship meets, he strained his left hamstring. Although Pasko said he was fully healthy at Saturday’s Long Island Elite Indoor Meet at St. Anthony’s High School, the hamstring issues had interfered to the extent that he missed several weeks of training this season.

“I understood I wasn’t going to be able to run amazing because with sprinting, I had to get like three months of training in, and if I didn’t get that three months of training, it really wasn’t going to be a really good time,” he said.

Pasko clocked 6.99 seconds in the preliminaries and didn’t qualify for the final, which was won by Brentwood senior Julio Rodriguez (6.57).

The prestigious showcase meet attracts Long Island’s best track athletes. Pasko, seeded 19th among 23 entries, finished tied for 16th against what he said was probably the best competition he has run against this season. The disruption to his training schedule hurt him, though, he said.

“I couldn’t really run anywhere near a hundred percent,” said Pasko, whose personal-best time is 6.83. He added: “Coming back from injury, I mean, it’s alright. It’s not what I want.”

Pasko wants to run faster, and to do that he needs to train regularly, and to train regularly he needs to stay injury-free. He said he needs five days a week of sprinting and seven days a week in the weight room.

Pasko took third place in the League V Championships, but wasn’t thrilled by his 6.87. In the Section XI Small School Championships, he ran 6.96 but didn’t qualify for the final. At the state qualifier, he posted 6.93, failing to qualify for the final and the state meet that will be run Saturday at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island.

“Right now I don’t think I’m running good times at all,” he said. “I can run way better than this.”

Pasko, who does extensive stretching for his hamstrings, said he couldn’t even train for the small school championships.

“The small school championships, I made it way worse in that meet because I just forced myself to run,” he said. “I learned that I can’t just force myself to run when it’s just a minor tweak.”

One thing is certain: Pasko doesn’t lack motivation. He said he went to Texas last week and connected with a sprinting coach, Kevin Garrett, who taught him a lot and gave him a spring training program.

“Sprinting, there’s so many different components and I have to really like fix my mechanics because they’re just not right,” Pasko said after his final indoor meet of the season. “Every little thing just makes a difference.”

Pasko, who attends Southold High School and trains on the school’s sparkling new track (even in the bitter cold), repeatedly expressed his excitement about the coming spring season, which he plans to attack with gusto and vigor. He expects to run the 100, 200 and 400 in the spring.

“Now I’m ready to go for the whole spring season,” he said. “And then right after that spring season, I’m not going to stop training. You know, sprint training, I’m just going to keep going with that, pretty much year-round, not a single day off.”

“Next year my goal is to run 6.4, at least … 6.45 or 6.44, something like that, something around there because it’s definitely achievable,” he continued. “I have the genetics for it, it’s just that the training has to be put in and there can’t be injuries.”

Knock on wood.

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Photo caption: Southold/Greenport sprinter Max Pasko appears to be running on air during the 55-meter dash preliminaries in the Long Island Elite Indoor Meet at St. Anthony’s High School. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)