Jacobs junior Ally Riedel remembers the moment like it happened yesterday and not one year ago.
Riedel was completing a tumbling pass in her floor routine, one finished with a double back flip in pike position. She had executed the move hundreds of times without incident, both in meets and practices.
But this time was different. In the middle of the flip, Riedel felt her left hand slip off her leg. She says it counter-rotated her momentum and twisted her body. Instead of the normal two-footed landing, Riedel’s right foot slammed into the floor, toes underneath but well short of where the back of her foot should have been.
The crowd gasped.
Riedel grimaced and collapsed in pain.
Kim Harrier, Riedel’s coach from Cary Gymnastics, helped her off the mat at the Fremd Gymnastics Sectional and over to the trainer, who examined her and iced the foot.
Soon Riedel would learn the bad news – she had suffered a Lisfranc fracture, one in which the metatarsal bones are displaced from the tarsus. Doctors often see that type of fracture with auto accident victims because of the force. Riedel’s immediate career was on hold, while her long-term career was in question.
“There was the potential that she wouldn’t come back,” Harrier said.
Which is why at last week’s Conant Sectional, Riedel’s smile lit up William N. Perry Gymnasium. After months of rehabilitation, during which time she still went to the gym and did upper-body exercises, and despite being months behind her competitors in terms of preparation, Riedel was headed to the state meet this Friday and Saturday at Palatine High School.
Riedel tied for fourth in the floor exercise, assuring her a spot at state. After the four sectional meets were completed, she also had qualified at-large in all-around, uneven bars and balance beam.
“I was so thrilled. Coming back from this injury, I wasn’t really expecting to make it to state,” said RIedel, who competed at state as a freshman and was qualified in vault last year. “I didn’t want to pressure myself. I was going in to have fun, I knew I wasn’t the strongest gymnast there because of my injury. I went in with an open mind, that if I made it, good job, all my work is paying off.”
Those who know Riedel never doubted her mettle, it was just a matter of how her foot would heal. The fracture was so bad her doctor could not give her an exact amount of broken bones, she was told eight to 15. The Lisfranc fracture means the foot shifts sideways slightly, and Riedel needed a second surgery to insert screws and wires that held bones in place. The wires and screws have since been removed.
“It was awful,” said Riedel, whose all-around score of 36.575 was the best at-large qualifying score. “It’s definitely not something I would ever want to relive. But I learned so much from it, so there was good that came from it. Watching state and knowing I should have been competing was hard. You have to live through it. You can’t fix what happened.”
Once the healing began, Rich and Joan Riedel knew their daughter would be back competing.
“I always believed if there was a way for it to happen, she’d make it happen,” Rich said. “She’s an incredible competitor. She doesn’t cheat on conditioning or practice. With that attitude and work ethic I always believed there would be a way to do that.”
Riedel went back to the gym last spring with her cast and did pull-ups and other upper-body work. When the cast was off and she was assured she would not further injure her foot, she worked on giant swings on the higher of the uneven bars.
“She barely missed any time,” Harrier said. “She’s the kind of kid when you give her a paper, she’ll do the whole thing. She doesn’t cheat. She doesn’t cut corners. I’m so proud of where she’s act and that’s because of her character. She’s a phenomenal kid.”
Riedel will compete later this spring at Level 9 for Cary Gymnastics in the club season, with hopes of advancing to the national meet. She wants to compete in college and the recruitment process will gain momentum in the ensuing months.
Last week, Riedel avoided looking at the scores as the meet progressed. It helps alleviate pressure.
“I didn’t want to know, so it would be an even greater experience,” Riedel said. “When they called me up [for floor exercise], I was so excited. You just try your best and as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that really matters.”