In her quest to become a standout long distance and cross country runner, Emma Rosenthal's heart and mind are telling her to push herself to compete and train harder.
Her left foot, however, may disagree.
After pushing through an all-conference season in which she was hampered by a sprained ankle, Rosenthal, a Central Cabarrus sophomore, learned from her doctor that it led to a stress fracture in the same foot.
The injury kept her from competing in the regional and state meet. Rosenthal, though, continues to condition the rest of her body so it will be ready for the spring track and field season.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Rosenthal never played any organized sports. She signed up for track and field at C.C. Griffin Middle in the seventh grade just because her friend was looking for a companion on the team.
As she competed in the 800 meters and the mile run, Rosenthal says her season "wasn't too great".
"It gave me something to do with a sport," she said. "It got me active."
Being a former marathoner, her father, Stevan, encouraged her to participate in a couple of 5 kilometer runs. Finishing three minutes in front of her father in the Mineral Springs 5K in Spruce Pines was Rosenthal's fondest memory of her first race.
Rosenthal says her eighth grade season at C.C. Griffin wasn't any more memorable than the previous season. She found herself finishing in the middle of the pack of her races and failed to qualify for the conference meet again.
As a Central Cabarrus freshman, Rosenthal earned team MVP honors by emerging as the Vikings' top cross country runner. Her regional time of 23 minutes, 18 seconds at Charlotte's McAlpine Greenway was a personal best for the season.
In the spring, Rosenthal was the Vikings' only female long-distance runner. She ran her best 1,600 meter time (6:18.14) at the South Piedmont Conference championships, placing her ninth. Rosenthal placed seventh in the 3,200 meters.
Rosenthal began to understand the importance of off-season training. After the track and field season, she started running five miles a day on her own.
Through the summer, Rosenthal and Central Cabarrus boys MVP Quentin VandenBerg started training together. VandenBerg's father coordinated some workout routines for both of them.
At the Firecracker 5K in Huntersville on July 3, Rosenthal won the 14-under age group with a time of 21:45.
The hard work paid off for this fall's cross country season. Rosenthal won a couple of early-season races and medaled at the Cannon Invitational by finishing 14th in a prestigious field.
In mid-September, Rosenthal sprained her left ankle in practice. School trainers taped her up before ensuing practices and races and Rosenthal felt she could compete through the little bit of pain she experienced.
When a doctor diagnosed a stress fracture in the foot two weeks ago, it effectively ended her season. An all-conference selection, Rosenthal got the news a week before the regional meet.
Relegated to a protective boot for three months, Rosenthal is working out in the school gym on her own after school until she can get back on her feet.
"I know that the next few months are going to be difficult for her because she is driven to run," said first-year cross country coach Chris McBride. "But I think that if she gives her body the proper amount of time to heal, she has an amazing running career ahead of her during her last two years of high school and in college."
Ranked No. 1 in Central's sophomore class, Rosenthal says she is applying to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.