Lauren Zick can deal with the pain that comes with a grueling track and field workout.
What the Kaneland junior had to endure last week was another matter.
Zick, one of the area's premier girls track athletes, was on a school field trip May 6 when she started feeling excruciating pain that originally was thought to be appendicitis.
"This was just a constant pain I was going through for hours," Zick said. "It started on Monday when I was at school, so I went through the entire school day and all night with it and I didn't go to the doctor until Tuesday, so I went through 12 hours with just constant [pain]. It felt like I was being stabbed continuously, honestly."
A visit to Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora the next day revealed that Zick's suffering was because of a burst cyst in her lower abdomen.
On one hand, Zick was greatly relieved because that meant no surgery was needed, preserving the climax of the track and field season.
But, with only a few days before Friday's sectional in Burlington, there was no quick fix for the pain. Besides taking relatively mild pain-relievers such as Tylenol or Advil and following doctors' diet suggestions, there was little Zick could do other than wait for the discomfort to gradually subside.
Nonetheless, the Sugar Grove resident made a swift decision that she would participate in Friday's sectional, in hopes of securing her third IHSA girls track and field state meet berth in as many years.
"I said I would because I knew I wouldn't be as sick by Friday, so I figured I might as well give it a chance because if I didn't, I knew I wouldn't ever forgive myself," Zick said.
She returned to school Thursday and, the next day, persevered through a difficult sectional meet while far from full strength. She had enough in her tank to qualify for this weekend's state meet in the long jump and 4x400-meter relay.
Zick also competed in the 4x100 relay but pulled herself out of her individual 400 as she felt her fuel diminishing.
Regaining that strength is the focus of her week leading up Friday's Class 2A state preliminaries at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. She's eating as much fruit and protein as she can tolerate in hopes of feeling like herself this weekend.
Zick projects to be one of the top contenders in the long jump, in which she leapt a personal best 18 feet, 2 inches during a home triangular this season. In Friday's sectional, she notched a 16-6 1/2.
"This entire year, I've been jumping really well when I was healthy," Zick said. "If I can jump near to where I have been, I feel I should be able to do really well."
Although the past week-plus hasn't been much fun overall, Zick said she still is enjoying the most exciting slice of the track season, and credited her team for helping keep her spirits up.
"They've all been great," Zick said. "Every day I've had teammates texting me or coming up to me at school asking me how I've been feeling. The coaches have been keeping really close tabs on me, asking about my health, how I've been eating, how my strength has been. They've really been great, taking really good care of me through all of this."
The worst is over for Zick, who hopes her best is yet to come this weekend.
• Jay Schwab is a Shaw Media sports editor. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.