No Pain, No Gain

For Caleb Moellenhoff, the road to recovery has not been easy.


Courtesy of Caleb Moellenhoff

Moellenhoff was one of the team’s best runners during his Sophomore year.

The familiar sound of feet hitting the ground in perfect unison reverberates around the track.

Caleb Moellenhoff is accustomed to the sound of the stampede, but, for the first time in a while, he is a part of it. After tearing his hamstring in the spring of 2019, Moellenhoff, a senior member of the Westminster Christian Academy cross country team, has endured a grueling rehabilitation process that has taken over a year and a half. He has dealt with the loss of seasons he will never get back. Yet, after all this pain, Moellenhoff is back for his senior cross country season and determined to enjoy it to its fullest.

Moellenhoff’s injury story dates back to December of 2018, after having periodic pain in his hamstring: “I went to some physical therapists who never diagnosed the problem I was having but gave me all of these glute and hamstring strengthening exercises,” Caleb remembers. “I had slight improvements at times, and I continued to run in the mornings before school and play basketball after school.”

Continuing to exercise made the injury worsen. The pain became unbearable for Moellenhoff, causing him to miss the 2019 track season. It wasn’t until months later, after countless days of wondering what was wrong with his leg, that he learned the devastating news: he had a torn hamstring.

“By this time, it was June 2019, and I realized I at least wasn’t running again until the end of the summer”, reflected Caleb.

As he predicted, when August rolled around, Moellenhoff’s hamstring had healed. Yet, even after enduring a long summer of inactivity with incredible patience, he still struggled to run. Moellenhoff’s injury, along with the lack of movement due to the recovery, had weakened and tightened his hamstring along with other parts of his lower body.

“For over a year, I have at least spent somewhere from 30 minutes to an hour doing the same and different exercises prescribed by either my doctor, trainer, or previously, my physical therapist,” he reveals.

Throughout this strengthening process, Moellenhoff has been smart with his injury. He has had to slowly build up his muscular endurance, starting out with walking for short periods of time all the way to running. Whenever he feels that something is not right with his leg, he stops, even when it comes at a price: Caleb has had to watch both the 2019 cross country season and 2020 track season from the sidelines.

Although he avoided any long term damage by being cautious, the loss of seasons has still become a painful reality for him: “Before the injury, I had two and half years left at Westminster to compete in Cross Country and Track. I was so excited to continue to improve and compete alongside my teammates, and now I’m a senior. I’m not in very good shape, and I don’t have much time in high school running left.”

Moellenhoff may not have competed in any events, but he was still a strong presence on the cross country and track teams over the past two years. He explains that he learned how to be a good “cheerleader” by watching a role model’s example: “When I was a freshman, Evan Parres of the class of 2018 was our team captain. He was the most talented runner on the team, but he dealt with a stress fracture for his last two years of high school. However, that didn’t stop him from coming to every meet, watching everyone else run, and supporting us. His example meant a lot to me, so I strived to emulate it.”

The undying loyalty and support to the team that Caleb has exhibited is not a common occurrence. It would have been much easier to go home, watch T.V., do some homework, and forget about running altogether. It’s a true display of selflessness that he would be willing to support runners on the team because it had to constantly remind him of the agonizing reality that he couldn’t do the same.

In spite of all the pain that his injury has caused him, Moellenhoff has also learned quite a bit during his arduous journey. He opens up on how adversity “ acted as a refiner’s fire to show the inadequacy of centering my focus and hope on worldly things. I strived to stop putting my identity in my performance and instead to place it in God’s love for me. I relied on God for strength and put my future totally in his hands because honestly there were times I thought I might never get to 100% again. From all of this, I grew to be a more mature Christian and person.”

A situation such as the one Moellenhoff endured would make most people give up in despair and become angry at the world. But Caleb Moellenhoff is not “most people”. He is made of stronger stuff. He has overcome a serious injury with patience and unique discipline. He has worked his way all the way back to running with the team. He is a warrior. Although he feels sorrow over the seasons he missed, this time of injury has changed him from a boy with shortsighted ambitions to a man with a better perspective on life.

Now, as the cross country team continues to run around the track, Caleb can’t help but smile. He may not run as fast as he did when he was a sophomore, but he enjoys it with a renewed vigor, grateful for every step God gives him.