Fillman powers through pain to push for victory

HANOVERTON-Every long jump Riley Fillman makes brings a fresh onset of back pain.

For the past month, the United junior has competed with what doctors believe to be severe muscle spasms and pinched nerve.

“The long jump aggravates my back a lot,” Fillman said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle.”

Despite the difficulty, Fillman still managed to grind out a second straight state berth in the long jump to go with another appearance with the 400-meter relay team. The Division II long jump will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium .

“Last year I fouled on all three of my jumps and didn’t place,” Fillman said. “I’m really excited to get another chance.”

Fillman qualified for state in the 300-meter hurdles last year, but stumbled to 15th place at the Austintown regional last week. He had enough in the tank though, for the 400 relay and long jump.

“With the long jump, I used frustration to motivate me,” Fillman said. “I hadn’t been getting very good jumps. I was getting mad at myself and used that frustration to push me through.”

“That’s what sports are all about,” United coach Troy Brunner said. “Riley battled through the injury and stepped up and did what he needed to do.”

Though he has sat out a few events in the past month, Fillman has been told that he can’t injure his back any further by competing and he has insisted on pushing though despite the pain.

“I hate to sit out,” Fillman said. “I always want to be out there if I can.”

Luckily for Fillman, his back is feeling better this week than it has in a while, just in time for the state meet.

“I’ve been doing a lot of rest and physical therapy,” Fillman said. “My back has been feeling much better. After this season, I’m going to keep resting and then try and build up my strength more so this doesn’t happen again.”