Decathlete on Pace to Score in Big 12 With Torn ACLMay 4, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
With the ACL in his right knee torn twice and the meniscus in the same knee repaired four months ago, Henry Vildosola shouldn't be able to compete in even one event at this weekend's Big 12 Track & Field Championships.
And he's not. The Baylor junior from Moreno Valley, Calif., is competing in 10.
"It's just an amazing story. He didn't want to have the surgery on his ACL, because he knew the rehab would take him forever," Baylor coach Todd Harbour said. "He was like, 'I can do this.' And the doctors were saying, 'You can do straight-line, but how are you going to do the long jump and pole vault and hurdles on a torn ACL?' They were adamant that he couldn't do it, but he just kept working them and working them until finally they just had to give in."
Through the first half of the 10-event decathlon competition, Vildosola is in seventh place with 3,545 points and trails sixth-place Jake Wohlford of Texas by just 32 points.
"I know a lot of people are proud of me that I'm just out here competing," said Vildosola, who earned all-conference honors last season when he finished eighth with a career-high 6,789 points. "And that's cool, but I want to do well. It doesn't mean much to jme if I just come out here and compete badly."
Although he posted personal bests in the 100 meters (11.59) and shot put (41-3 ¼) and is just one point off his pace from a year ago, Vildosola said his "rhythm was definitely off in some of the events."
"I was doing a lot of weird stuff in the high jump," said Vildosola, who went 6-2 and barely clipped the bar on his final attempt at 6-3 ¼. "I think I was just reverting back to what came natural as opposed to executing it the way coach was telling me. He was giving me instruction (between jumps), and every time it would be the same thing, which means I wasn't really making the adjustments that were necessary."
Sixth after the high jump, Vildosola dropped a spot in the standings with a disappointing 400-meter time of 52.64. Texas freshman Johannes Hock is the runaway leader with 4,222 points, followed by Reinis Kregers of Kansas State (3,83), Ethan Wilkins of Iowa State (3,793) and the K-State duo of Devin Dick (3,722) and Tomas Kirielius (3,628).
Unrealistic or not, when Vildosola found out that Texas All-American and defending conference champion Isaac Murphy wasn't competing, his goal was to finish second.
"At this point, it's probably a stretch, because I didn't have the Day 1 that I wanted to have," he said. "But anything can happen. Hopefully I can finish in the top five in conference. Day 2 is where I would say my biggest improvement has come in the last year. I worked a lot on my throws and the vault and the hurdles. And I feel like I'm surprisingly in shape, so I feel like the 1,500 (meters) will be pretty good, too."
This is not supposed to be happening. Vildosola was not even cleared to work out with the team and has been doing all of his training on his own.
"For a distance runner, that's not hard to do," said Harbour, who was an All-American miler at Baylor. "I could get out and run, and coach (Clyde) Hart would never know. But for a multi (-event) guy, 10 events, that's pretty tough. How do you do that? I don't even know."
For Vildosola, who re-tore the ACL in his right knee last summer, "it's about changing people's ideas of what's possible."
"Especially for us as a team, we don't lack talent, we don't lack the ability to do things," he said. "The only reason why I feel like we haven't totally lived up to our potential is there are a lot of people on the team whose expectations are just too low because of maybe a lot of failure, a lot of years of getting hurt or not improving. And what they think is realistic, what they think is possible, they just keep lowering it.
"I want to raise the bar and challenge the status quo, because a lot of people will tell you that things are impossible. But if you do them, then they're not impossible."
Beyond his teammates, Vildosola has inspired the coaches.
"Last night, we talked about how we always have athletes that step up and do things that inspire you as a coach," Harbour said. "Well, Henry's already done that, just the fact that he's even out here. He's a warrior. And that's what you want. Hopefully, some of our athletes will take note of that."
On a relatively quiet opening day of the meet, Baylor junior hammer thrower Erin Atkinson had a chance to make a lot of noise, especially when All-American and defending champion Alena Krechyk of Kansas fouled on her three attempts in the prelims and didn't even make it to the finals.
"With the Kansas girl not getting into the final, you were thinking, 'OK, this is Erin's day. She's got a shot at winning this thing,''' Harbour said. "They're just so hard to win. When you get your opportunity, you've got to seize it."
Popping a throw of 208 feet, 5 inches on her first throw, Atkinson had a significant lead coming out of the prelims. But on her fifth attempt of the day, Kansas State freshman Sara Savatovic put up a career-best mark of 210-4 and stole the gold.
"Coming in, I didn't want to just try to win conference," said Atkinson, who was the runner-up to Krechyk at last year's meet. "I wanted to throw far and PR. At the end of the day, I was trying to move up in the rankings nationally. And I didn't do that, so I'm pretty disappointed in myself."
Baylor assistant coach Danny Brabham said he was proud of Atkinson, but "she needs to learn how to turn the screws up a little bit and get the gears moving a little bit better."
"She can be top three at nationals, but she's got to make up her mind that that's what she wants to do," he said. "We can work on the technique and whatever we need to do up until that point. But then it becomes kind of a mental game for her when she gets in that ring."
Even when Savatovic passed her, Atkinson still had two attempts left in the finals. But she fouled on her next one and then came up just short with her final toss.
"I don't ever count myself out until the finals are over," said Atkinson, who had a best of 213-2 this season and two other throws of over 211-5.
"She's thrown a lot better than that," Brabham said. "In practices this week, she probably had 10 throws over what she really needed to do there. We just needed her to duplicate that. And she didn't."
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