Four months ago, one of the best high school milers of all time, Lukas Verzbicas, nearly died during a cycling crash that left the 19-year-old bedridden. But Verzbicas is back and thankful to be alive.
On Thursday, he took third in the Orland Park Turkey Trot in Orland Park, Ill.
“The fact that I’m able to even be here means so much more to me,” Verzbicas said. “I’ve never appreciated something like life. I always thought about the small things -- the racing and the training and all of that. That was all that mattered to me. Now I see the wide spectrum and the big picture.”
Verzbicas, who was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, and graduated from Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, is a two-time Gatorade National Runner of the Year. Last year he left the University of Oregon to concentrate on training for triathlon.
His bike crash took place in Colorado Springs when he was heading downhill and slammed into a guardrail. The result: two broken vertebrae, a broken thorax, and a broken clavicle. On Thursday, he finished third overall out of 750 entrants and second in the 15-19 age group with a time of 13 minutes, 32.6 seconds. It was his first competition since the accident.