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Running for His Life: Clarion-Limestone Sophomore Logan Lutz Uses Cross Country to Keep a Longterm Lower Back Condition Strong

STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Running is more than just a passion for Logan Lutz.

It may very well be the thing that is keeping him functional.

(Clarion-Limestone sophomore Logan Lutz, left, runs during a cross country meet against North Clarion last week/photo by Lisa Standfest)

In May of 2012, Lutz unexpectedly crumpled to the floor of his home. He couldn’t feel his legs.

An active 5-year-old boy who had never shown any signs of such a serious medical problem, Lutz was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. There, after two MRIs and a lot of handwringing and whispered prayers, a sobering diagnosis was made.

Lutz was suffering from spondylolisthesis (pars defect) — a serious condition where one or more of the bones of the lower spine slip forward.

If the vertebra slips too far, it may press on nerves and cause severe back pain or nerve crowding that produces leg pain or numbness.

The cause was unknown. Still is. It’s unclear if a fall just days prior to his collapse was to blame or if Lutz was born with the condition.

With treatment, Lutz regained full use of his legs. But since, he’s had to undergo extensive physical therapy to build up and maintain his core muscles to support his back. Down the road, Lutz may face surgery.

He was cleared to play sports again in 2017.

Clarion-Limestone Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


“With the tools to care for his back, the doctors released him,” said Lutz’s mother, Diane. “If he has any pain at all, we are to report to Children’s Hospital immediately. It was a long road, and there is still a possibility he will need surgery some day. But, for now, we are holding steady.”

These days Lutz is an active 16-year-old young man and a sophomore at Clarion-Limestone. He’s found that running is one of the most important and useful tools to keep his back strong and pain free.

He’s also discovered he’s quite fond of logging miles on long, winding trail runs.

His mind goes blank when he takes to the cross country courses for Clarion-Limestone. All he focuses on is his technique, the terrain and continuing unceasingly forward.

“I kinda zone out,” Lutz said, chuckling. “The coaches always tell you, ‘Don’t think. If you think too much about what you’re doing, you’re gonna slow down.’

“Sometimes your legs will get tired,” Lutz said. “Sometimes you’ll want to quit. You just have to ignore it.”

It’s been hard to ignore what Lutz has done around the course of District 9 lately.

Also a baseball player, Lutz has hit his stride this fall for the Lions.

Last week in a big dual meet against North Clarion, he ran a time of 18 minutes flat to place first, edging the Wolves formidable top three runners, Kaine McFarland, Aiden Thomas and Gabriel Fair. He also edged teammate Ty Rankin, who has also excelled this season.

When Lutz crossed the finish line, he collapsed to his knees, succumbing to the fatigue generated by a frantic final push to win.

(Logan Lutz collapsed after crossing the finish line in first place against North Clarion)

“I gave it my all,” Lutz said. “It’s a hard course, but a good course.”

His time was 40 seconds faster than his previous best.

“I just got stronger. Got more endurance,” Lutz said. “I kept pushing myself and just kept going.”

His recent success has changed his goals for the rest of the season.

Lutz finished ninth last fall as a freshman at the District 9 Class A Boys Cross Country Championships with a time of 18:45.

Coudersport’s Kevin Sherry won the individual title, finishing in 17:36. Lutz wants to make a run at the championship and Sherry, who is now a junior.

“I’d like to get sub-18,” Lutz said. “I’m hoping to make another run for states, go back and show how much I’ve improved from last year. That puts me toward the top in districts. I feel like if I could break 18, I’ll be toward the top three.”

Last year, Lutz placed 117th at the PIAA Cross Country Championships with a time of 18:47.

Lutz is working hard to slash that time into the 17s.

He said he runs between five and seven miles each day in practice and has been working on his technique over flat terrain — his strength has always been on the hills.

“The coaches and my teammates, they push me a lot,” Lutz said. “Ty Rankin in right on my butt every race. It’s good having someone there. We push each other at practices all the time.”

Lutz pushes himself on the baseball field, too, where he was a threat as a freshman with the bat and as a pitcher.

He helped Clarion-Limestone reach the second round of the PIAA Class A playoffs by batting .350 while showing exceptional range in the outfield. As a pitcher, the left-hander was 0-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 19⅓ innings pitched out of the bullpen. He struck out 21 and walked seven.

Lutz has a wide array of offerings — a two- and four-seam fastball, knuckle curve, slider, curveball and changeup.

The knuckle curve is his out-pitch.

“I use that a lot to throw the hitters off,” Lutz said. “It’s very effective.”

Lutz hopes to play college baseball one day.

“I’d like to pitch in college, but I also think it would be cool to hit in college,” he said. “It’s just one of those things now where people talk about two-way players. It’s kind of hard once you get to that level to decide if you want to pitch or if you want to hit. It depends on the scholarship, but I’d like to do both if I could.”

Lutz is just grateful he can do anything at all after his scare as a young boy.

He doesn’t know much about what happened to him. He refers to it as “the time by back messed up.”

“It just didn’t work,” Lutz explains. “I’m not sure why.”

He is well aware, however, of how to prevent it from happening again.

Running and baseball has, in a way, saved him.

“It was very scary, and still today very real,” Diane Lutz said. “We realize that your life can change in an instant. We are thankful for amazing doctors and nurses who gave us the tools to teach Logan how to care for his back. Also so appreciative of friends and family who have supported Logan.

“We are very proud of him,” she added. “His success comes from his work ethic and from many people — coaches, teachers, friends, and family, who support and believe in him.”

Clarion-Limestone Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.