STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
AUSTIN — A nagging foot injury from two years earlier for 2017 Marble Falls High School graduate Lauren Loader temporarily sidelined her dream of making a college track-and-field team.
However, her resilience paid off as she recently made the University of Texas at Austin squad as a javelin thrower.
“We didn’t measure (the distance of her tryout throw), but it was not far,” she said. “I don’t know too much about javelin. Coach (Mario Sategna) was really happy with me. I think he was really excited. It was really cool.”
Loader has been throwing for several weeks and believes she is improving. She thinks the reason she made the team is because of her potential to learn the form and commitment to improving. Part of her routine includes a weight program.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m liking it,” she said. “I want to go do something for them and make the team better any way I can.”
Loader’s goal was to be a heptathlete, which was obtainable when she started high school considering she was already a gifted high jumper, long jumper, triple jumper, and sprinter. But a foot injury toward the end of the 2014-15 track season put her on the sidelines the following year.
The athlete has a player’s mentality — if you walk, you can play — so it was no surprise she chose to compete at the Class 5A Region IV meet in 2015. She gritted through the pain while she attempted to compete in five events.
Loader finished 14th in the long jump and helped the 4-by-400-meter relay team finish fifth. But she didn’t compete in the 200 meters or the 4-by-100-meter relay. She said she remains sad about dropping the events because she believes she would have advanced to the state meet had she been healthy.
“I do want to know the outcome, what would have happened if I’d tried,” she said. “That influenced what I did at UT. I had nothing to lose, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”
During the summer of 2015, doctors told Loader to simply stay off the foot and let it heal, but it still bothered her as the school year began and it cost her an entire year of competition.
Turns out the injury was misdiagnosed. An MRI showed swelling but no bone damage, so doctors concluded it was a stress fracture and released her after several weeks. After she began to play, the foot still hurt, so a CT scan of the foot was taken. That scan showed a stress fracture that began on one side of the foot and went toward the middle.
“It was turning into a clean break on my right foot,” she said.
Again she needed time to let the foot heal. After several months and still having the competitive fire, Loader joined the Texas Waves swim team, which is based at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond in Burnet. Swimming helped her physically get stronger by forcing bloodflow into the foot, she said.
“It really helped me recover mentally,” Loader said. “I had a hard time sitting around for two years. It was a really cool experience. It was really different and fun.”
She didn’t play volleyball for the Lady Mustangs last year but was healthy enough to return to the track-and-field team by the spring.
She was third in the high jump at regionals and helped the 4-by-400-meter relay team set a new school record though the team didn’t advance to the state meet.
“I was really content with everything,” Loader said.
She knew she’d go to college for an education but wouldn’t say no to a chance at competing on a higher level. She took a strength-and-conditioning test, and Lady Mustangs head coach Anthony Torns included the results in an email he sent to University of Texas coaches. In it, the two emphasized the student simply wanted a chance.
They responded that they’d be willing to see Loader in action. Once the fall semester began, she picked up the paperwork and participated in a tryout Sept. 18.
The indoor track season begins in mid-December, and the outdoor season starts in mid-March.
“I think making a difference on the team is more important than anything,” Loader said. “If I join a team as a walk-on, they don’t pay me. I’ve been accepted on the team.”