Jasper's VanMeter undeterred by injuryOctober 11, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER - Anybody on Saturday who didn't know otherwise might not have noticed anything was wrong with Jasper senior Andi VanMeter.
After all, VanMeter was her usual self when she ran a time of 18:51.87 to win the girls sectional race - her third straight year of doing so. She paced a deep Jasper team to another girls sectional title and help the Wildcats sweep the sectional on both sides at the Jasper Youth Sports Complex.
But those who do know otherwise know there'd been an interruption to her senior experience. She ran in the Sept. 11 Eagle Classic at Brown County, finishing in third with a time of 18:04.5 to break her own school record that she set in a fourth place finish the week prior at Columbus North by 10 seconds.
However, an injury got in the way - a stress reaction in her femur. She first noticed it leading up to the Columbus North meet when she thought it was a quad strain, and she ran through the pain in her leg at the meet.
She took days off before the Brown County race, which she, again, ran through pain, but the pain forced her to drop out of a workout afterward.
An MRI revealed what was wrong, and that Elite Race at Brown County was the last time people saw her in action prior to Saturday's sectional.
"It was really hard," VanMeter said. "I was glad I was able to get in some of the bigger races when it happened, but not being there all the time for my team in the races and in the huddle - it's hard."
One of the more prolific runners in the state initially worried she'd be done for the season. Her aspiration of building on last year's 16th place finish at state and getting top five this year was in serious jeopardy.
"When I got hurt, I was really scared - I didn't know what was going to happen to my season," Andi said. "And so, I just decided to do bike and pool workouts, and I feel like it kept (my) cardiovascular system pretty well in shape - just those few muscles that needed some work."
"It was pretty upsetting because she's always there for me, and she's always motivating me and stuff," said Linzi VanMeter, Andi's freshman sister, who finished third.
Linzi talked about how Andi has pushed her through the summer, and has helped her with certain things - which paces to go during workouts, how far to go and whom to run with. She thinks there's a lot expected of her because she's Andi's sister and is merely a freshman, but she's trying the best she can.
She makes sure to listen to what her older sister says, and the two embraced after Linzi won the Sept. 28 Jasper Invitational with a time of 20:15.11.
"I was giving her a lot of pep talks the day leading up (to) and the day of the race," Andi said. "I knew what the goal was, and she wanted to win. And I tried to give her some words of encouragement.
"...I gave her a hug after the race because I was really proud of her," Andi later said. "And I'm so glad she's becoming a great runner and she's trying her hardest."
Jasper wouldn't be without Andi for too much longer, as she was cleared within the week leading up to the sectional, which she really wanted to run - even if she wasn't 100% and didn't go all out for it.
"I could feel some things are a little weak just because even cross-training can't work certain muscles as much," she said.
She also thought her team toughed things out in her absence, as even with her gone, they still won the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference girls championship Oct. 2.
"It's never good when you're missing any runner on your team, but it also gives the other girls that experience - like last week at conference, just having to push it to step up for the team," Jasper coach Kevin Schipp said. "And then when you get the runner back, it makes you that much stronger."
Andi coming back for the sectional meant a lot to Linzi that she got to run with her sister again and win the sectional together.
"I really enjoyed it because having her at the start line and stuff, it felt good having her there," she said. "And it motivated me more to run faster."
She'll have that opportunity to compete with her again at least once more this year, with the Wildcats being set to continue their postseason run Oct. 16 at the Crawford County regional.
"We just need to be really motivated, have good workouts this week - stuff like that," Linzi said.
Andi, meanwhile, has aspirations for herself, and the team also has their sights set on things. She went into detail about the extent of her injury in a follow-up conversation with The Herald Monday night via text message, and that she's still seeking big things moving forward.
"I for sure still have big goals for state with the cross-training I am doing and continuing to do and as I am getting back into racing, I think it is very attainable," Andi wrote of getting top five. "Even so, top 10 would be a great accomplishment as well, but I am not letting an unfortunate injury get in the way of my goals. Also, my team has big goals for state as well. I believe in my team and the work they have put in. I would not be able to be where I am today without the girls team and all the support they have given me.
"(Junior) Ally (Wigand) is a great partner to run with, when I can, and my little sister Linzi is always there for me," she added. The rest of the girls, (Sophomore) Emma (Schipp), (Sophomore) Kate (Jerger), (Junior) Jordan (Schweikarth) and (Freshman) Monica (Lorey), always work their hardest and have big goals for us as well. With everyone having the same goals, and a positive mindset, we should accomplish big things."
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