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By: Jill Wunrow (@JillWunrow)
GreenBayPhoenix.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - After turning in one of the most impressive seasons in the recent history of the Green Bay women's cross country program in 2011, senior Lauren Mauel (Green Bay, Wis.) had her sights set on finishing her collegiate career on a high note with the hopes of topping her junior season performances.

Unfortunately sometimes things don't always turn out as planned.

With the 2012 Green Bay cross country season half in the books, Mauel has had to learn how to overcome adversity and be patient, more than anything, while solidifying her passion for the sport, from the sidelines.

This past summer, with high goals and expectations in mind, Mauel was running about 50 miles per week. As a result in doing a bit more than normal, in June Mauel injured her hip flexor and was forced to take time off until July.

When the calendar turned to July, Mauel noticed a bump on her head. She went to her doctor and had surgery to remove what was thought to be a cyst. Results showed that Mauel's bump was an Osteoma, which is a new piece of bone growing on another piece of bone, a benign tumor.

Mauel began running three weeks after the surgery when she soon discovered Fibro adenomas in her chest. With her family having a history of breast cancer, Mauel acted fast and had the Fibro adenomas removed.

The second week of August Mauel started running again before suffering yet another setback. Mauel injured her knee cap about two weeks ago and has since been trying to rehab with the hopes of returning to the course with her teammates.

"I'll try to run one race this season or may just jump in at some point," Mauel said. "On the other hand, if it will hurt me long term it doesn't make any sense to risk my future health."

Not only have injuries and medical issues been frustrating for Mauel in not being able to compete, but the biggest frustration is the fact she has not been able to compete with her sister Sarah, who is a freshman on the team this season.

"Sarah is my best friend and we both planned to go to Green Bay so we could run together in all the races and have fun," Lauren said. "The same pattern happened when we were both in high school so it's frustrating."

When Sarah was a freshman at Green Bay Southwest High School, her older sister Lauren was a senior on the team but the two were never able to compete together because Lauren was sidelined due to a stress fracture.

Though the Mauel sisters may once again not be able to compete with each other, Sarah is proud to follow in her sister's footsteps.

"It's cool to be following in Lauren's footsteps in the sense of accomplishing what she did last season," Sarah said. "I really wish I could be running with her. We're really close, we're best friends."

Sarah has done a flawless job carrying the torch her sister handed down to her. The Human Biology major is off to an impressive start to her college cross country career, starting off with a fifth place finish at the UIC Opener. The following week Mauel finished third in the field of 176 runners at the UW-Parkside Midwest Open held Sept. 8.

In Green Bay's most recent meet (Sept. 15) Sarah ran to a first-place finish at the Concordia Invitational, the same meet Lauren won last season with the Phoenix. Though Sarah was not running with her sister, she certainly knew Lauren was there cheering her on.

"I can always hear her at meets and when I'm running I just think, 'do what Lauren did last year' and I keep trying to go for her," said Sarah.

"I'm really proud of her, she's doing a great job and gives me support when I'm not able to compete," Lauren said. "We work together as a team even though we're not racing together but hopefully I'll come back for a couple of races and probably be in tears. It's a dream of ours to compete together."

Lauren's role on the team may be different for now, but the team her sister continues to pace still needs her too.

"Whatever Lauren offers is very important to the team as well as herself for the recovery process," said head coach Mike Kline. "It's easy when you're injured to get distanced from the team, but we need her and she needs us."

There's still hope for the Mauel sisters to compete together for the first time in their careers, but for now Lauren will continue to cheer on her sister and appreciate the lessons she's learned over the past four months.

"I just love this team so much and it's really hard for me to sit out, but I'm so proud of these girls and I need to realize my role now is just as awesome as running with them," Lauren said. "I realize I should be thankful for what I do have because I have so many wonderful things."

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