View Mobile Site

Better Than Ever

Lung surgery hasn’t slowed reigning All-Area MVP Pabla

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED November 15, 2013 12:15 a.m.

Harleen Pabla continues to surprise herself.

Manteca High’s distance-running ace is preparing for a third straight jaunt in the Sac-Joaquin Section Cross Country Meet, which takes place Saturday at Willow Hill Reservoir Park in Folsom.

She initially never imagined herself getting that far as a sophomore when after just six months worth of distance training she became the first Buffalo — male or female — to qualify for the state meet in 14 years. Last season she had her doubts going into the section meet because of a pesky head cold that kept her from running at full strength for two weeks. She ended up returning to state and was named the Manteca Bulletin’s All-Area Girls Runner of the Year for a second time.

Two months later, Pabla wondered if she would be able to ever run again.

Last February, Pabla had difficulty breathing during tryouts for the school’s varsity soccer team. She complained of this to her mother, and they rushed to a hospital.

“It came out of nowhere,” Pabla said. “We found out that one of my lungs collapsed.”

She underwent a procedure and was released two days later. Within a week, her lung gave out again.

“I had to get another procedure done, and that time they used a bigger tube,” she said. “That wasn’t working, so they did it over. After that I stayed in the hospital because of internal bleeding, and so they redid the surgery.

“Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong.”

Pabla spent nearly three weeks in the hospital. She didn’t get to play soccer last spring.

Then in June, Manteca’s cross country team began its summer workouts.

“I sent her out on a 2-mile run with our slowest girl, and our slowest girl was beating her for the first two weeks,” coach Rick Cuevas said. “Harleen was crying. She asked me if she was ever going to recover, and I told her it’s not her lung that’s bothering her. It was all up here (points to his head). She was afraid.”

He was right.

“I really didn’t have faith in myself,” Pabla said. “I didn’t think I was going to get back to where I was. Every day I would just think about it some more and get more stressed out.

“It took a long time. Everybody kept telling I would eventually get it back but I wasn’t seeing the progress.”


“I may be better than I was last year.”

On Oct. 29, Pabla finally earned the Valley Oak League championship that eluded her for two years and did so with energy to spare. Cuevas’ strategy for her was to keep up with Kimball’s Francesca Loayza and Sierra’s Haley Silva, who split top finishes in the first two VOL cluster meets, until the final 200 meters.

“She turned on the afterburners in the end,” Cuevas said. “Wasn’t close.”

Pabla clocked in at 19:14 at the Legion Park course in Modesto, and she led the Lady Buffaloes to a second consecutive league championship. Loayza (19:25) and Silva (19:46) followed.

It was in the weeks leading up the VOL finale that Pabla got her groove back.

Cuevas ramped up the intensity for his runners between the final two VOL races. The grueling sessions included 800-meter intervals.

“The workout was harder than the race itself,” Pabla said. “That’s when I knew.”

As did Cuevas.

“That’s when I told Harleen, ‘You’re back,’” he said. “She didn’t even do workouts like that last season when she went to state.”

The best three teams in Division III and up to five individuals who place in the top 14and are not part of qualifying teams advance to the state event in Fresno.

Cuevas had high hopes for both the boys and girls teams to make it, but injuries have put a damper on that. Outstanding underclassmen Lejla Pepic (foot) and Emma Holbrook (ankle) are done for the season, derailing the girls chance at competing with the section’s best at Division III.

“I could run them, but what if they get hurt really bad?” Cuevas said. “It just wasn’t worth it. We could have a really good team next year. I saw them both limping a little bit and I didn’t want to risk it.”

The three-time defending VOL champion boys contingent isn’t 100 percent either, so Cuevas is sending his best underclassmen down to the lower levels to compete for a frosh-soph section title.

Sierra has two serious contenders for state berths in Silva and 2012 boys qualifier Josh Spooner. They placed fourth and second in the subsection meet at Frogtown last Saturday.

In Division IV, where two teams and a maximum five top-12 individuals move on, Ripon and Weston Ranch each have multiple state hopefuls. 

Alex Norling and sophomore Ellie Waters are Ripon’s best shot at being represented at state. Waters qualified last year with a seventh-place finish. The Weston Ranch girls, led by freshman Iris Carillo and senior Fattima Momini, finished third at the subsection meet. Brendon Curtright has a chance go individually. Courtney Bloemhof is a state candidate for Ripon Christian in Division V.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...