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Nielsen: A soaring recovery

Bear River phenom jumping back into action for National Junior Olympics
By: Joshua Ansley Journal sports writer
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Kendal Nielsen is jumping back into competition Friday at Sacramento State for the National Junior Olympics. The Bear River junior qualified two weeks ago at the USATF Junior Olympic Regional Qualifier at Modesto Junior College. Nielsen’s 38 feet, 7 inches in the triple jump, 18 feet, 2 inches in the long jump, 12.25 seconds in the 100 meters, 25.64 seconds in the 200 meters, and 50.75 seconds in the 4x100 relay, are all school records. Her 200m and triple jump are also Pioneer Valley League records. Under normal circumstances, Nielsen’s record breaking talent would have made qualifying for the Nationals a forgone conclusion. But there was nothing normal about it. Just nine weeks earlier she sustained a spring ligament strain to the plantar calcaneonavicular ligament in her right foot. It is a common injury for leapers. The ligament undergoes a lot of stress when pushing off to jump. The final result turned out to be a good lesson for Nielsen. It occurred early enough in her career that it won’t effect her potentially earning a college scholarship. It has also made her more aware of her body’s warning signs. “It was an overuse thing,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘I can push through it. It’s not that bad.’ So I kept going, and it kept getting worse because I was so determined. Eventually, I could barley walk.” The former gymnast, turned track and field athlete, was on crutches for a week and a half. “In all the years I’ve coached, I’ve never seen an athlete come back in nine weeks like she has,” said Michael Reid, Nielsen’s personal trainer. “It was phenomenal. I am surprised by the entire process.” Nielsen gives credit for her recovery to a team of physicians, including the doctor who first diagnosed her injury, Gary Robinson of Robinson Chiropractic Auburn, and her physical therapist Phil Stoddard from TEAM Physical Therapy. While Nielsen’s determination turned detrimental, she lucked out on one important factor. Reid is quick to point out that her recovery is just another miracle in line with everything Nielsen has shown so far. “The miraculous thing about it is that she injured her right foot, but jumps off her left,” Reid said. Nielsen had just enough time to get back into jumping before the July 9 regional qualifiers. She did not participate in the sprinting because of the endurance and muscle loss. “Not only was I trying to recover from injury,” she said. “I was trying to recover the muscle that I lost. So I am not doing sprints because I only had a week before the regional qualifier. Jumping events don’t wear on it (the foot) as much.” Although jumping accommodates the injury better, Nielsen still has to run down the track before her leap. She is able to get up the speed she needs for jumps, but not for the length that her sprinting requires. But Reid and Nielsen are optimistic. Neilson also plays volleyball at Bear River. When that season ends she’ll begin sprinting again. “Her speed is slowly coming back,” Reid said. Meanwhile, she is focusing on the triple jump. Nielsen believes she can break 39 feet this week. Reid believes she’ll break 40, if not this week, in the very near future. “She is, without hesitation, the best jumping female athlete that I’ve coached,” Reid said. “It’s surprising how naturally she’s evolved. The sky’s the limit.”