Athlete of the Week: Goings goes from hospital to gold

Less than one month before the Class AAA state track and field championships, doctors told Myrtle Beach  sprinter E.J. Goings his high school career was over.

So how do those doctors explain the gold medal around his neck? They can’t, but Goings can.

“God definitely brought me out of the hospital and gave me the strength to run again,” said Goings, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week after winning the state in the 800 meters.  “I remember being in bed and being told I couldn’t finish the season. I just prayed to God for a chance to win it not just for me, but also for my family, friends and school.”

Goings, who won the 800 as a sophomore and lost it as a junior, had vowed to win it back as a senior. He was well on his way, winning the event at the national Beach Run Invitational before experiencing abdominal pains in the very next practice.

Goings went to the emergency room later that night and was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston after being diagnosed with pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can be fatal without proper treatment.

After getting a clean bill of health and being released from MUSC, Goings got the glimmer of hope he was looking for when doctors told him he could try to come back at a slow pace. That meant slowly walking around the track on his first day back, and even that was difficult.

“Upon my departure they told me I could try but to take it easy,” Goings said. “That was a big surprise because before they said I was done. That was all I needed to hear. It took me a while to get back to full speed – I had to walk for a few days, then jog – but I just believed that I could do it.”

Myrtle Beach track and field coach Vince Peeples wasn’t surprised by Goings’ attitude, but even he wasn’t sure if his star runner had time to make a full recovery. After all, Goings had been in bed, on IV fluids and light food long enough to lose a lot of strength and conditioning.

“I knew E.J. is a resilient kid, but he was on his death bed just weeks before,” Peeples recalled. “My main concern was his health. I wanted him to be able to run again but I didn’t want him to push it too hard. He just slowly made progress and got back to full strength just in time.”

In the state qualifier one week before the state meet, Goings finished second in the 800 meters (2:01.39), eighth in the 400 (50.40) and helped the 4×400 relay team also qualify. At that time he made a key decision not to run in 400 at the state meet.

“I felt I could have won the 800 if I hadn’t run in the 400 earlier, so I decided just to focus on the 800 and the relay at states,” Goings said. “I ended up winning the 800 so easy I wish I would have run in the 400 too.”

Goings not only won the 800, he did so by more than a full second over the runner-up with a time of 1:56.46, nearly 6 seconds faster than his previous race. He also helped the Seahawks to eighth place in the 4×400 relay, and he still had gas left in the tank.

“E.J. ran a perfect race. He followed instructions to a tee,” Peeples said. “He has a tremendous kick, and when he got to about 200 left he started passing guys and he was pulling away so far. He could have run 2 or 3 seconds faster. I was very proud of him because he never used it as an excuse. He just wanted to run.”

Goings’ season may now be over, but he isn’t about to stop running. Following a full summer of junior track, he plans to attend college on a track scholarship (he has offers from Coastal Carolina and Howard but is awaiting additional opportunities). But no matter how many more races he may run, this is one he will never forget.

“I felt so many emotions after that race. I was so happy I wanted to cry, but all I could do was look up to the sky and say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ ” Goings said. “After that trial I went through, I was just thankful God gave me the chance to run again.”

Photo by Rancier Photography

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