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Long returns to track for Golden Bears

From left to right, Shelbyville's Ethan Long, Dalton Fuchs, Tim Clark and Alexis De Jesus after competing together on the 1,600-meter relay team.

By PATRICK MURPHY - For The Shelbyville News

The last time Ethan Long was competing in a track and field meet was his sophomore year. This year, the Shelbyville High School senior said it’s a comeback season for him.

At the beginning of the 2018 track and field season, Long had been working out to prepare for his junior year. That’s when Long felt pain in his lower back.

“Me and Coach (Nick) Blakey thought it was sciatica, which is the nerve that goes down your leg. It ended up being worse than that,” Long said. “I had a herniated disc and it pinched my nerve to where I could barely move my left leg. It was probably the most painful thing I have felt in my life.”

Before his surgery on March 6, Long was confined to a black wheelchair for three weeks. Long said it was “the most depressing times in my life.”

Being in a wheelchair had changed the way Long looked at life as well.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Long said. “Just the simple thing as walking, don’t take that for granted. Cause it can go away in a matter of minutes.”

While being confined to the wheelchair, Long didn’t give up supporting the team. Last year, Long was known as the “hype man” for the Golden Bears. There was a moment that head coach Nick Blakey will remember Long yelling for Collin Scott in the 1,600 meters.

“Collin won a few invitationals in the 1,600 meters,” Blakey said. “You would hear Ethan, from pretty much anywhere on the track, just yelling out the words ‘Beast Mode.’”

The first time sophomore Seth Hutchinson saw Long was in his black wheelchair in the hallways of SHS. The moment Hutchinson saw him, his heart skipped a beat.

“I saw him in a wheelchair and we were all pretty worried about him,” Hutchinson said. “It was kind of out of the blue that we saw him hurt. It scared us.”

After the surgery at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Long could steadily walk again. Blakey remembers a funny moment the first time he saw Long without his wheelchair.

“He walked up to me at practice, shortly after he had the surgery,” Blakey said. “He’s like, he walked up to me and looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Alright. I’m out of here. See you, Blakey.’ That was all our conversation was. He just looked so funny standing there, because the last couple of weeks I had been looking down at him.”

Due to his injury, Long wouldn’t be able to run. He was cleared in the summer to run by the doctors. In the fall, he ran cross country for SHS. According to Blakey, the point of this season was to get Long moving again.

“The problem with being out for that long is that a lot of his mechanics had changed,” Blakey said. “He was actually having a lot of compensation injuries as a result.”

Now, going into his final track season with SHS, Long is back and training with his teammates. This season, Long wants to accomplish three goals: break the school record in the 1,600 relay, go to state and beat his personal records. In his sophomore season, the relay finished ninth at the Warren Central Sectional. To accomplish his goals in his last season, Long said he wants to get back to his true form.

“Getting my strength back, getting my sprint speed back and trying to get back to where I was, if not better,” Long said. “It’s pretty crazy to think the last time I ran was in my sophomore year and now I’m a senior. Missing one year is crazy. You miss a lot.”

Patrick Murphy is a Sports intern for The Shelbyville News. He is a senior at Ball State University.