East Xtra: Freak injuries slowing Norwin track team

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Although they are just callow teenagers, Sydney Black and Kelsey Plecenik find themselves on the comeback trail this spring.

They are two of the top athletes on the Norwin High School track team, but both girls were injured on their way to the state indoor track and field championships Feb. 23 at Penn State. As the two traveled to State College, their car hit a patch of black ice and rolled, injuring both girls.

Each girl is well-known for her athletic prowess at Norwin. Black, a senior who also played right-side hitter for the Norwin volleyball team, placed ninth in the high jump at the WPIAL championships last year, achieving a height of 5 feet, 1 inch. She also placed ninth in the triple jump at 35-1/2.

In the winter, Plecenik set a school record (37-41/2) while placing second in the triple jump at the TSTCA Indoor Championship meet at Edinboro University, and finished third in the high jump, clearing 5-1.

Plecenik, a sophomore, qualified for the WPIAL championships in the 200-meter dash last May. Although she sustained an injury in the race, she still helped Norwin's 1,600-meter relay squad achieve a 12th-place finish with a time of 4:08.51.

Plecenik, who also plays forward for the Knights section-runner-up soccer team, also became part of a three-way tie for first place in the pole vault at the TSTCA championships. She cleared a height of 11-3.

Plecenik sustained a concussion in the car accident, as well as various bruises and scrapes. Her neck was sore and initially required her to wear a brace.

Black did not incur any major injuries as the result of the accident, although she said she was very sore afterward. Then on her first jump at the state indoor championships, she sustained a broken left ankle.

"Right now I'm not cleared to do anything," Black said. "My doctor is getting me to lift [weights] with my upper body -- it's all upper body and ab work. I can't bear any weight on my ankle -- my legs have changed completely."

Nonetheless, Black had another appointment with her doctor this past Tuesday.

"I'm going to start running in the pool and swimming as soon as I'm out of the boot," Black said, referring to her impending transition to a "walking boot" removable brace.

Black intends to couple her pool work with outdoor walking. She expected that her clearance to participate in her jumping events would take months from the initial injury.

"Once I have full clearance, I'm going to give myself two weeks," Black said.

She noted that she will spend those two weeks running in order to fully cement her healing and conditioning.

Plecenik's injuries took a very different path. She went through repeated impact tests to monitor her recovery from the concussion.

"Besides all of the impact tests, I was going to the chiropractor to help my neck and tailbone and minimize the injury as much as possible," Plecenik said.

Late in the winter, she endured a case of strep throat followed by mononucleosis. The illnesses, along with her concussion, made her nervous about being cleared for track.

Nonetheless, Plecenik was given the OK to participate and has already seen some success for the Knights this season. At an April 3 triangular meet against Greensburg Salem and Indiana, Plecenik pole-vaulted 10-6 and placed third in the 100-meter dash. The Knights girls team recorded two wins that day.

Black is an Edinboro University recruit, and is upbeat about her future with the Fighting Scots.

"They were really great [about my injury]," she said. "They were very concerned and checked up on me. I'm excited to continue my college career there."

Plecenik was also focused on the positives.

"I set my goals pretty high and I always hope to achieve them with the help of my teammates," she said. "It helps that the coaches understand, with all that I've gone through ... if [Black] and I didn't have each other through this entire thing, it would have been pretty rough."

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