Sam Stoddart tried to bear the pain of a stress fracture and compete for the New Trier girls gymnastics team last winter.
While working on her floor exercise during practice, she was overcome with a sharp pain in her back, burst into tears and told coach Jennifer Pistorius that the pain was too much to push through.
“The doctors had told me I had a stress fracture in my L5 vertebra but that I couldn’t injure myself much more,” Stoddart said. “They said the pain level was going to increase though. I wanted to be there for the team. I tried, but I couldn’t.”
In a limited role, Stoddardt helped New Trier place fourth in the state finals last February. Now, she looks to help the Trevians make their third consecutive state finals appearance after being absent for 17 years. While not 100 percent, she’s much closer to the gymnast she was two years ago when she helped New Trier qualify for the state finals for the first time since 1995 and placed 30th in the all-around.
“There was nothing more difficult than sitting and watching these guys doing the things I want to do,” Stoddardt said. “Gratefully, my body got the break it needed and I was able to get into some meets at the end of the year.
“I’m trying to get all the skills I had before and hopefully I can get them back. I competed in a club meet a few weeks ago and got a nice baseline for where I’m at. I feel like I’m close.”
She’ll need a big season after New Trier lost last year’s top performer, Kerry Scafidi, to graduation, and senior captain Elana Benishay to a torn ACL.
“When she first told me, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I totally know how you’re feeling,’” Stoddart said. “I told her it gets easier over time and that you can’t control an injury, but you can control how you respond to it. She’s a great teammate and I think she’ll do a wonderful job coming to every meet and offering as much support.”
The Trevians will ask senior Stephanie Steen, junior Claire Egerter and sophomore Peyton Burns, a Level 10 sophomore who is new to the team to lead the way.
“Our past history has been to start slow and peak at the end of the year,” Pistorius said. “In the grand scheme of things, that’s all that really matters. Staying healthy and being ready for regionals.”
In gymnastics, that’s easier said than done.