Eric Grossman has been the girls cross country coach at Catalina Foothills for 10 years, and he's always run with the team.

But now he's facing a dilemma.

Grossman, 57, might need a new left knee, and that means change for all concerned.

"I ran for 46 years so it's possible that I'm done, but I hope not," Grossman said. "Done running, not done coaching."

Grossman is in his 22nd year of coaching. Before taking over the girls team, he was an assistant for both the boys and girls squads.

While running with the team is somewhat unusual, it's been a winning formula for him.

Foothills won a state title in 2005 and has finished in the top 10 at state every year since 2002.

Last year's third-place finish in the Division II meet was the Falcons' best since it won a title seven years ago.

"If you look at our program, we're always in it," Grossman said.

This year's squad may be even better, although it is smaller than last year's group - Grossman's biggest - which started with 42 runners.

It has all top seven runners returning, including junior Autumn Brown who led the Falcons at state last year with an eighth-place finish.

Grossman said this team is among the best he's had. Plus, the girls have one year behind them and are even more competitive.

However, the reason he can't run alongside the team right now is because arthritis has caught up with him. He also tore his meniscus last season on the team's traditional Tuesday morning trek to Bruegger's Bagels just northeast of the Foothills campus on Swan Road.

He recovered from that injury and was running again until about a month ago when he re-tweaked his knee on that same run.

Since then, assistant coach Steve Carney has still been running alongside the girls during practice while Grossman manages the workout from the outside.

"It's not the same," Grossman said. "It's still good, but it's not the same.

"I drive around in my car at the moment."

Grossman also said he'll cycle next to the team or use an ElliptiGo, an elliptical machine on wheels, which the girls also use when they're hurt.

However, they aren't the same as actually running. Grossman said the girls have told him the workouts have gotten harder since his most recent setback.

"The fact that Eric runs with us makes him relate to us more," senior Laura DeMers said. "So when he's yelling at us at meets, we want to push ourselves harder because he's been there with us through every step of the process and the pain."

Grossman said running with the team makes the experience better.

"You have to have a good time," Grossman said. "So we talk, we joke, and we laugh and kid around and all that to make it enjoyable."