Area Track: Recovering from ACL injury, Heitman wins state gold
ST. PAUL — ACL injuries can be an emotional time for athletes — the unknown of how their bodies will respond to treatment and how effective they can be after recovery are primary concerns.
For Lake City junior Ethan Heitman, his road back from a torn ACL last summer reached its peak on Saturday at Hamline University when he became a state champion with a 6-foot, 6-inch high jump at the Class A state track and field meet.
Heitman's recovery wasn't exactly a breeze, however.
"The first meet back from injury was a home meet and I only jumped 6 feet," Heitman said. "Though, it felt good to be back."
Heitman hit the 6-foot, 6-inch mark on three occasions last year, so to see a 6-inch drop in his return to the high jump was a realization that he would need to put in the work to get back to where he was last year.
His best jump of the year came at the Section 1AA track and field meet at Plainview-Elgin-Millville with a height of 6 feet, 3 inches, good enough to qualify him for the state meet.
While at state, Heitman faced more adversity before he hit his championship-level jump.
"My first jump, I hurt my left ankle right away," Heitman said. "I started to feel the pop that they talk about."
The injury wouldn't slow him down, however. He came up short on his next attempt at 6 feet, but then rattled off three successful jumps to get him to 6 feet, 4 inches with five remaining competitors.
Heitman needed all three attempts at 6-04 and 6-05 to clear the bar, but he surpassed 6-06 on his first attempt which would be the difference between winning the state championship and coming in second.
"I was overjoyed when I cleared the bar," Heitman said. "Once I knew I won the state meet, my family rushed over and hugged me."
Heitman also competed in the long jump, finishing in eighth place with a mark of 20-08.50.
Elsewhere in the long jump, Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Jacob Niebuhr came in 12th place (20-04).
As a team, the Lake City boys' track and field team finished in a tie for 25th place with 14 points. Pequot Lakes finished the meet on top with 39 team points.
Ashley Veronen was the lone girls athlete to score a team point on Saturday with a ninth-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles. She had a time of 48.02 seconds, almost a full second off of her prelims time.
Lake City also had its 4x800-meter relay team of Liv Kozlowski, Hallie Willers, Samantha Darnell and Lilly Meincke compete in the finals. The team finished in 10th place with a time of nine minutes, 48.17 seconds.
Although the Tigers' relay team came up just short of making the podium, it still shaved off almost one-and-a-half seconds from its seed time.
Kaly Banks, Cannon Falls' lone state meet qualifier, took 14th place in the triple jump with a mark of 34-06.50.
Lake City finished the day with a team score of 1 and a tie for 71st place. The Blake School came in first place as a team with 46 points.