The comeback story that tops them all

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My pick for Lake County sports story of 2009 didn’t make may other lists. In fact, I didn’t see Fallon Faia’s name referenced even once on compilations of the year’s best stories. But she probably possesses more courage than I’ll ever know.

I’ll admit I was surprised when I read the Vernon Hills senior had captured the all-around title at Hersey’s Candy Cane Invite in impression fashion last month. Because less than a year earlier, Faia was left fighting for her young life after collapsing during a routine on bars at the NSC Meet at Mundelein High School.

Even a week after the meet, the talented gymnast didn’t remember a whole lot of what happened that night. She did recall being struck with a dizzy spell in the middle of the routine.

Faia was later informed that she had lost consciousness and suffered a seizure that stopped both her heart and her breathing after leaving the meet in a wheelchair.

“I can’t believe how bad it was,” Faia told me after watching her teammates compete at the Stevenson Regional last January. “I’m walking a little funny now and I don’t know why. I feel okay, but I’m really weak and it’s hard for me to do stuff.”

At that time, she said doctors had told her she would likely never compete in gymnastics again. Even though she had such a positive attitude and sparkling personality, I sincerely doubted Faia would be back.

The veteran Cougar said the episode was related to a fall she had as a sophomore at the Stevenson Sectional when she ripped away from the high bar during warm-ups and landed on her head. She suffered a subdural hematoma – bleeding in the right part of her brain – that never fully healed.

With some remarkable courage and determination, somehow Faia has made a successful return to gymnastics this season. And the fact that she’s also returned to form as an area standout makes her story the coolest one of the year.

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