It’s safe to say that this is the biggest weekend of the regular season in high school cross-country, with the Roy Griak Invitational, the Milaca Mega Meet and the Apple Valley Eagle Invitational all scheduled for Saturday. Most of Minnesota’s top runners will be competing, with teams and individuals looking ahead to the state cross-country meet in Northfield on Nov. 5.
One Minnesota runner will not be seen reaching the finish line first in any of those races and she will not qualify for state. But she is content to just run, no matter the race, no matter the competition and no matter where she finishes.
Pierz High School junior Beth Broschofsky has been finishing way back in the pack while competing in junior high races this fall, and that is just fine with her. That’s because after surviving cancer and having a metal rod replace the humerus in her right upper arm, just running – even while wearing a large brace that keeps the arm strapped close to her body -- is enough.
As Beth finished last at a junior high race in Royalton last week, the encouragement was solid. She came down the final stretch to the sounds of teammates and friends shouting “C’mon Beth!” and “Way to go Beth!”
While I interviewed Broschofsky after the race, another runner came up and interrupted with a very quick, “Good job!” Beth told her, “You too!”
She does not run very fast, which is understandable with one arm strapped against her body. Broschofsky was a strong runner on the track team as a freshman, finishing third in the 3,200 meters at the Central Minnesota Conference championships. But a year ago, a week before the start of her sophomore year in school, the trouble began with a bump and some soreness in her right upper arm. She thought it might be a muscle tear or similar injury.
“We had an x-ray done and the doctor said it didn’t look right,” Beth told me. The x-ray was sent to the University of Minnesota hospital, and Beth soon had an appointment with a specialist there.
“They looked at the x-ray and they said the bone was weak. They were thinking it was either an infection or some sort of tumor.”
A biopsy was performed the next day, and the news was not good. It was Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. (Orono High School soccer player Nick Manzoni, who was profiled in John’s Journal on Sept. 1, also was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma last year.)
Beth had her first chemotherapy treatment the same day that school started in Pierz. Surgery to remove the tumor in her arm was done Dec. 27, with more chemo following, as well as a bone-marrow transplant. She was home-schooled throughout the 2010-11 school year but it wasn’t all bad, she said with a smile.
“My grandpa (Herb Broschoskfy) taught me how to play cribbage during that time,” she said. “We played cribbage every day.”
Other than losing her hair, Beth handled the chemo very well. She saw other young patients suffering much worse fates, and she is thankful for the treatment and care she received.
“She leads by example and you never hear her complain,” said Pierz cross-country coach Rey Zimney. “And if anybody would have a reason to complain about something it would be her. She’s really been quite an inspiration.”
Last season would have been Beth’s first on the cross-country team. Now that she’s finally able to run again, her goals for this fall are simple: get stronger and be ready for track next spring.
“I’d just like to improve, I guess,” she said. “I’m kind of trying to get back into shape for track and be competitive.”
A section of bone and muscle in her shoulder was removed during surgery and the range of motion is limited. “I can still write and everything, but I can only lift my arm about this high,” she said, raising it a few inches. “Maybe with therapy I’ll be able to lift it a little farther.”
She wears the brace because the running motion could damage her shoulder and arm. “I’ll pretty much have to wear it forever (when running), because of my surgery. They want to keep my arm in place,” she said.
The highlight of the season might have come in Pierz’s first big meet, the Irish Invitational at Maple Lake on Sept. 1. Via email, Zimney told coaches of the other teams what Beth had experienced. He wrote: “This young lady went through HELL last year, but we can give her a moment she will never forget.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Beth knew nothing about what was in store as she got closer and closer to the home stretch of the junior high race.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” she said. “It was weird; I was running and everybody was saying my name and I was thinking, ‘How do they all know my name?’ I saw all these signs with my name and they were wearing my shirt that they had for a benefit. It was a surprise.”
Beth is healthy and getting stronger all the time. She has regular medical checkups but so far, so good.
“Yep, it’s looking good right now,” she said with another smile. “I’m just hoping it won’t come back.”
Indeed. One big comeback is enough.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 34
*Miles John has driven: 1,854
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn