Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @360paulv
There is never a good time for an athlete to get injured.
There are, however, worse times than others to get injured.
Sammi Hampton would have preferred to have a bad elbow a month or two ago. Not now.
If a pesky foot injury had to happen to Emily Morgan, she wished it would have happened in March, not May.
The spring sports postseason is upon us, and athletes are hoping to peak. Unfortunately, there are plenty of athletes who are just trying to endure.
Hampton and Morgan are among the best at what they do -- when they are healthy. And that makes this time of year all the more frustrating for them.
Hampton, a sophomore from Skyview who won the Class 4A state tennis title last year, had to serve underhand last week in winning the district tournament.
Morgan, a junior sprinter from Columbia River who owns the school record in the 100 and 200 meters, was on crutches the other day.
As of Monday night, both athletes were unsure of the cause of their injuries, or even their diagnosis. Both ultra competitive, they say they will be ready for this weekend's bi-district events as they try to qualify for state.
Even with a strong front, any injury can get into an athlete's head.
"It was really disheartening, kind of scary," Morgan said, describing her feeling this weekend.
Her left foot has been bothering her for about a month. At the 3A district meet Wednesday, she won the 100-meter title. Then on Thursday, she finished second in the 200, breaking the school record in the process. By the weekend, though, the pain was more than a nuisance. She needed crutches.
"Challenges are opportunities for greatness," she said, recalling a quote from her soccer coach. "That's my mantra right now. I'm trying to see the positives right now and hope for the best."
Morgan planned on seeing a doctor this week, but unless she gets really bad news, she said she will be at bi-district meet this weekend in Shelton.
"I'm just going to take it easy this week to make sure it doesn't get any worse," she said.
The goal is to do enough to make it to state, to not extend herself more than she needs to this week.
"I figure state's in two weeks. I'll be able to push through this and, hopefully, finish the season strong."
Hampton thinks she has golfer's elbow -- not tennis elbow -- and a little tendinitis. The pain is most intense on the inside part of her right arm, and she has never before experienced it.
She found it too difficult to raise her arm over her head, so she settled for serving underhand. She even got an ace in the title match.
"It was weird. It was actually kind of fun," Hampton said.
Still, she does not believe she can win a state title like this.
"I'm not too worried about regionals. I feel I can get to state with my arm being bad. But at state, they're going to crush my serve," she said.
So she is hopeful this is just a muscle strain and that it will be better by state.
Interestingly, Hampton could have advanced to bi-district, then forfeited her final match at district. That's not her style, though.
"If I have to, I can play through it," she said. "It might not be my best tennis, but I'm not going to forfeit."
Hampton is keeping a positive attitude, too.
"You can't really take anything for granted," she said. "A lot of people have knee injuries, shoulder problems. I'm really lucky."
Just unlucky to have this injury pop up at a terrible time.
Here's hoping the best for both Morgan and Hampton and all the other athletes trying to get healthy for the stretch run. Injuries are a part of sports. A really, really lousy part of sports.