East Butler junior Amanda Aerts says next year is her year. It has to be. She’s owed a few breaks.
In a career plagued by injuries, Aerts suffered her most significant setback during last track season. At the time, it was completely unknown.
She was running on a level four stress fracture that may have also produced an extra muscle in her leg. Aerts qualified to the state track meet in the 1600 and 3200 meters, but had to stop during the mile and withdrew from the two mile.
Once the injury was learned, she took the summer off to heal, and not even that went as planned. Aerts didn’t get back into competing until September, made it to the state cross country meet Oct. 19 in Kearney, but mostly looked at 2018 as a lost season.
“I can keep telling myself it can make you bitter, or it can make you better. That’s kind of what I’ve been going through all season,” she said at state. “The season hasn’t gone as I want, but I know it’s just one season. Hopefully, in track and basketball, I can put this behind me and move on.”
Aerts has been at state twice already in her East Butler career.
As a freshman in 2016, she was seventh. A year ago when the Tigers qualified as a team she was 10th. Friday at the Kearney Country Club she was 23rd and 45 seconds behind her time 12 months earlier.
That’s to be expected after several months struggling to get healthy, but still frustrating nonetheless.
“I won my first race in Yutan, and I thought I was going to keep improving, but I just didn’t because the stress fractures just kept coming back,” she said. “It’s not a surprise that I’m here. I knew I could get here pretty easily, but it’s also not a surprise that I didn’t medal. I was hoping to, I didn’t, but that’s OK sometimes.”
Aerts, despite distinguishing herself as a contender in Class D right away as a freshman, has never had a full, injury-free season in which to improve from one race to the next. More often, she’s focusing on how to adjust or prepare to deal with whatever latest ailment has arisen.
As physically taxing as that has been to work through, it’s weighed on her mentally more than anything.
Still, it has also shaped, and continues to shape, her competitive attitude.
“I’m hoping after this I can be injury free for my senior year and see my potential,” she said. “Every season I get a stress fracture or a muscle injury and I just have to cross train. I’m never able to run a whole season or practice the way I want.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s making me a better person in the long run.”
Becoming a better person includes appreciating the little things more and more, staying patient and finding the silver lining.
“It makes you mentally strong. All track season, running on a broken bone, you have to be mentally strong, you have to find a way to keep it from bothering you,” she said. “I know next year, I just know next year deep down I’m going to come back. It’s going to be my year.”
Aerts will do all she can to make that happen, but any extra good luck she’s earned for enduring all of the bad luck would be appreciated as well.
“I just put my trust in God. I know He’s using this in some way for some reason. I don’t know yet, I don’t know why, but I just try to give every race to God,” she said. “ I know all these injuries every year are leading up to something great I couldn’t imagine.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net