‘Tremendous issue’ with foot hasn’t slowed Upper St. Clair sprinter Dani Prunzik entering states

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Thursday, May 25, 2023 | 7:15 AM


Nobody who saw Dani Prunzik sprint across the finish line at the WPIAL track championships could’ve guessed the Upper St. Clair senior has battled a painful foot injury for almost a year.

Once she removed her shoes, only the tape on her right ankle gave it away.

“It has been a tremendous issue,” USC assistant coach Matt Cosgrove said, “but for someone like her, she has not let that issue come through in her practices or in her attitude. It’s obviously painful. She continues to stay strong.”

At last week’s WPIAL meet, the senior broke school records in the 100 and 200 meters and celebrated a third record-breaking run with her 400-meter relay team.

Her success eased any worries she might’ve had about the foot and certainly boosted her confidence for this weekend’s PIAA championships in Shippensburg.

The two-day meet starts Friday.

“I’m glad with all of my times, so I’m not as worried as I was,” Prunzik said. “I think once I rest a little and keep doing what I’ve been doing, I’ll be OK (for states).”

The Penn State recruit is seeded second among PIAA Class 3A girls in both the 100 and 200 meters. Her 400-meter relay team is seeded eighth, so Prunzik looks likely to leave Seth Grove Stadium with multiple medals.

Prunzik placed second in the 100 and fifth in the 200 at states a year ago, but she hurt her foot soon afterward. She said she was diagnosed with a stress reaction last June, an injury that made walking painful.

She was disappointed to miss the 2022 summer track season, but returned last winter for a limited indoor season and placed sixth in the 60 meters at the PTFCA state meet.

She said the discomfort in her foot has come and gone since.

“The first couple of weeks of outdoor it hurt, but it went away,” she said. “Then it started hurting before WPIALs, so I was a little nervous.”

She said she’s not certain whether it’s the same injury or not.

“Right now, I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll maybe have to get it checked out eventually. But I’m hoping with all of the physical recovery I’ve been doing, it can heal on its own.”

Her and her coaches got creative in the days leading up to the WPIAL meet, including extra rest in her schedule and adding low-impact practice sessions in a swimming pool.

“She said, ‘I didn’t think you could sweat in a pool,’” Cosgrove said with a laugh. “The goal was to just keep the heart rate up and get everything moving. You get some recovery in there with the pressure of the pool, but it’s zero impact.”

At WPIALs, she won the 100 meters for the third year in a row (the covid-19 pandemic canceled her freshman year) and celebrated her first district title in the 200. She posted a personal-best 11.70 seconds in the 100, and finished the 200 in 24.53 seconds.

Prunzik held off Franklin Regional freshman Monroe Law at the finish line in both events. Her margin of victory in the 200 was only one-hundredth of a second.

“I was in the outer lane, so it was hard for me to know (where Law was) because I can’t see her,” Prunzik said. “At the bend I started to feel her and said, ‘Give it all you’ve got.’”

In the 100, Prunzik won by two-tenths of a second.

“She is a strong finisher,” Cosgrove said. “You can see it in any video, any race. Her finish is super strong.”

The only competitor seeded ahead of Prunzik at states is Spring Grove junior Laila Campbell, the defending state champion in the 100 and 200, and the reigning Gatorade track athlete of the year for Pennsylvania. Campbell enters states with a fifteen-hundredths advantage over Prunzik in the 100 and a 1.3-second edge in the 200.

Assuming Prunzik reaches the finals in all three events, she would run three preliminary heats Friday and three finals Saturday.

“She’s such a strong athlete and loves competing,” Cosgrove said. “For her, (the injury) is just something that’s there. It doesn’t dictate performances, obviously.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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