West Franklin's Emma Bailey fights way back from knee injury

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

West Franklin junior Emma Bailey is a fighter and her running style exhibits that spirit.

The cross country runner started her high school career with a lot of success. As a freshman, she won the league and regional races and placed ninth at state.


During that winter, she had an ACL tear and spent most of her sophomore year recovering and learning to compete with a brace.

“Practice after practice, she had to fight through the difficulty of movement and the frustration of running slower than she had in the past,” West Franklin cross country and track coach Ryan Hahn said. “But she kept showing up and doing the work. Her resilience in the face of such adversity, combined with her overall self-discipline, has turned that setback into a comeback that has now included an all-state finish in the 3,200-meter run and a runner-up finish at one of the biggest cross country meets of the season.”

Bailey finished second in the Wamego Invitational this past Saturday. The race featured the top individuals and teams in 3A. Now, she is healthy and has a fighting spirit to go along with it.

“Coaches want athletes who will work hard at the right times, support their teammates constantly, and trust the long process of training,” Hahn said. “Emma possesses all of these qualities and more. She is a real asset to this team, both on the course and off of it. Now she hopes to lead her cross country team to another historical state finish.”

The Wamego race saw what kind of determination reigns inside of the Falcon. She started slow and finished strong.

“With over a 100 racers around her, it took about 200-meters for Emma to be swallowed up in the pack,” Hahn said. “She found herself in about 40th place, but there was patience and confidence in her eyes. She was not deterred by her starting position. Over the first mile, she maneuvered her way through the crowd one-by-one, approaching 10th place at the one-mile mark. It was at that moment that I knew this race was going to be a great one for her.”

The hilly course was another challenge Bailey faced head on.

“As the race continued up and down the relentless hills, she continued to make strong passes without any signs of fatigue,” Hahn said. “Shortly after the two-mile mark, she had claimed the second position, and was fighting to put some distance between herself and third place. Emma kept pressing as she ran down the final long downhill, and she was never caught. Emma finished with a season’s-best time of 21:03.37, which is remarkable considering how difficult this course is.”

Hahn sees this is just a good start to rejuvenating her competitive running career.

“The result of this race is great, but what has me the most excited is how quickly Emma is progressing,” Hahn said. “With each day, I get a better glimpse of what she could do in the future. And with each day, there is a little more excitement about the possibilities.”