first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ In March, a lingering stress fracture almost ended Iliass Aouani’s quest to redeem himself at nationals after finishing poorly in 2016.“I’m not 100 percent on my fitness,” Aouani said, “and I need some improvement, but I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.”The Italian transfer student is a potential top-tier runner for Syracuse and an amateur rapper in his free time. Since he was hampered by injury, Aouani has pushed hard to rehab fully in time for nationals. However, SU head coach Chris Fox said, Aouani is not likely to be fully healthy by the NCAA championships on Nov. 18 in Louisville, Kentucky. Still, Aouani will run at the NCAA championships after making his season debut at Atlantic Coast Conference championships.“I’ve been out for a long time,” Aouani said.Aouani and the coaching staff originally thought his stress fracture would heal in six weeks. After more than six months of recovery, questions arose about Aouani’s future role on the team, Fox said. At one point, Fox didn’t know if Aouani was going to be able to compete at all this season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textTo recover, Aouani focused his training on using the AlterG anti-gravity treadmills to get back in time to finish the year. The machine creates a shroud of low pressure around a person’s lower half by placing a seal around a runner’s waist and using suction to create a partial vacuum. This low-pressure sack allows the runner to use the treadmill on what feels like partial gravity.Three weeks before ACC championships, Aouani was cleared to train with the team. His first workout was “a little shaky,” teammate Colin Bennie said, but Aouani got better as time went on.“It was one of the first times he put hard effort on his legs,” Bennie said, “… but he progressed so much from that first workout up until ACCs.”In 2016, Aouani transferred from Lamar University to Syracuse in hopes of making an impact on one of the best cross country teams in the nation. In 2015, he finished second at the NCAA South Central Regionals. Following Syracuse’s national title in 2015, it viewed Aouani as a new weapon on an already stacked team.After All-ACC and All-Northeast Region honors a year ago, Aouani had an “off day,” Bennie said, at the 2016 NCAA championships, leading to a disappointing 128th place finish.“(For this season), I’m sure he can be anywhere from seventh to fourth at nationals,” Bennie said.Aouani’s foray into rapping started when he texted some rhymes in a groupchat with friends from back home in Milan, Italy. When his teammates at SU found out, they wanted to hear more, so Aouani made an English version of his track. Though his career in rap is nothing serious, Aouani said, he likes using it to lighten the mood on a team carrying the weight of high expectations.“I just threw something together to get the guys (on the team) to shut up,” Aouani said, “but I’m putting more effort in them than usual.”Aouani was 75 percent conditioned before ACC championships, Fox said, but he was impressed by how Aouani ran during the meet. His 22nd place finish made him the seventh runner to cross the finish line for SU on its way to winning the title on Oct. 27.At no point this season will Aouani be 100 percent healthy, Fox said, but he believes the junior will carve out a role as a solid fifth man for the team moving forward.“If he was completely healthy, we would expect him to finish in the top 20s at NCAAs,” Fox said. “But for this year, we hope he can place in the top 60s.”The weeks leading up to the NCAA championships have been an “exploration,” Aouani said, because he hasn’t run on land in months. Moving forward, he’s confident in his abilities and keeps surprising himself with the progression of his recovery.“We knew right from the gun that he’s got the grit that we need for him to run well for the rest of this year and on,” Bennie said. Comments Published on November 14, 2017 at 9:35 pm Contact KJ: [email protected] | @KJEdelmanlast_img

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