Injury alters outlook of Woodland's Nigro, but not her resolve to go to state

Senior hurt her knee in spill at meet last month

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

WOODLAND -- The goal has changed for Woodland's Kelly Nigro.

Coming into the track and field season, the three-time state-meet participant figured this would be her year to win a state championship. Maybe two.

Now, she just wants to make it to state.

When Nigro crumpled to the track at Battle Ground's District Stadium last month, she was screaming mad. The sound came from pain, but fear and anger could be heard in that outburst, as well.

"It was kind of a traumatic day for me," Nigro (pronounced NY-gro) said. "When I fell, I could see people were passing me. I couldn't move. I couldn't believe it. I remember screaming. It was a scary moment."

It was her left knee, and Nigro thought her season was finished.

The outlook has improved since the Tiger Invitational on March 23. There was no major structural damage to her knee. She is working to rehabilitate the injury, and there is hope that she will return for the postseason.

However, most of her senior season has been wiped away, and there is still uncertainty. Will the knee be healed in time for the Trico League meet? Will Nigro be able to get over the figurative hurdle in order to get over the literal hurdles?

So far, Nigro's track season has been 11/2 meets long. In her first meet of the year, she set a personal best in 100 hurdles, using a three-step method for the first time in competition. She also soared to victory in the 300 hurdles.

Her times that day (15.64 seconds, 47.54) remain the best this year among all Class 1A hurdlers in Washington. Woodland had competed in Class 2A in Nigro's previous three seasons before reclassification moved the Beavers to 1A this year.

"It was beautiful. She had a great meet," Woodland coach Melanie Holmes said. "It solidified what we knew. It was going to be a fantastic season."

Nigro had worked on the three-step method all offseason and when she used it in that first meet, she got immediate results.

However, at the Tiger Invite, she said her timing was off after a slow start. She ended up being a little short of her mark on the first few hurdles. She adjusted, moving to a four-step system, then reverted to the three-step. That, she believes, was her big mistake. The timing was off. She crashed into a hurdle, then tumbled awkwardly.

"I had a couple of falls in practice in the fifth grade," Nigro recalled. "I was kind of clumsy."

But nothing like this.

Holmes and the rest of the coaches froze for a couple of seconds. Holmes said they were just waiting for Nigro to get up and finish the race. They knew even if she could not win that she would want to finish the race. Unless ...

The knee swelled, and Nigro had to wait days before getting any answers.

"I kept replaying it in my head," she said. "I was really stressing out. It was a very anxious time and also very painful."

She was told it was a soft tissue injury as well as a strained lateral collateral ligament.

That gave her hope.

"This is the best-case scenario," Nigro said.

In order to qualify for state, she must compete in the league meet on May 10 and then qualify for district on May 17. The 1A state championships begin May 24 in Cheney.

"I wouldn't even have to be at the top of my game. I just want to compete in another race in my high school career and see if I can advance," Nigro said.

She said she will not have any fear of returning to the hurdles, but is more concerned with conditioning.

"I don't think I've gone this long without being physically active or working out," said Nigro, who also played soccer for Woodland. "It's very different."

Track and field is her favorite, though. She started running competitively in the third grade.

"It's just flat numbers," she said. "What you see is what you get. It's your time. You accomplished it because you worked hard to get there."

Nigro has been going a lot of places with her times in her career. As a freshman, she finished third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 100 hurdles at the 2A state meet. As a sophomore, she was fifth in the 300 hurdles. Last year, she was seventh in the 100 hurdles and missed making finals in the 300 by a photo finish.

Nigro was hoping to close out her high school career with a couple of state titles. She still believes it could happen, but that fall at the Tiger Invite has changed her outlook.

"That whole day was a gloomy day," she said. "After a while, you come to terms with it. It's not the end of the world.

"I would be happiest if I overcome this obstacle, build up my leg strength, and win a state title in one event. But really, just to compete. I'm very, very competitive. That's my main motivation."