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Back from break: Messenger shines after return from injury

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, September 22, 2018
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Last summer, Jana Messenger was wrapping up her agility training when she hit an unexpected wall on the final drill of the day.

BACK ON TRACK – Paradise sophomore Jana Messenger has emerged as one of the Lady Panthers’ top runners this season after missing nearly all of last year with a broken ankle. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Running on the Lady Panthers’ practice field, Messenger’s left ankle got caught in a rut. At first, she thought it was just a sprain. But when Messenger tried to get up and put weight on her ankle, she was unable to.

Messenger made her way down to Paradise’s field house with the help of her friends. Still not thinking it was severe, Messenger went home and even started walking on it.

Later that day, Messenger went to her orthopedic doctor for an unrelated appointment and received the surprising news.

“I ended up walking out of there with a cast on,” Messenger recalled. “I had no idea. I was thinking ‘How did this happen?’ I thought I just rolled it. I was going to wrap it and run the next day.”

Messenger suffered a partial fracture of her left ankle a few weeks before the start of the season.

After training all summer, it looked as though Messenger would miss her entire freshman year.

“They put me in a walking cast for about a month-and-a-half,” Messenger said. “They told me to refrain from a lot of physical activity.”

Paradise coach Karin Essig didn’t believe Messenger when she got the text message that she was hurt.

“I thought she was kidding,” Essig said. “We were all just planning from that day how many weeks it was from July until the district meet, just to see if there was any way she could come back.”

Since it was not a complete break, Messenger did not require surgery, meaning there was a slim chance she could return. Over the next two months, Messenger put in tireless work rehabbing her ankle.

When she wasn’t cheering on her team during practices and meets, Messenger was in the pool at Fit-N-Wise or doing workouts to strengthen her core.

“She couldn’t run, but she did a whole bunch of stuff like swimming,” Essig said. “I was proud of the work she put in. When all that meets an injury, her focus shifted to what she had to do to get back. And she was willing to do whatever it took.”

The work paid off.

Nearly two months after suffering her injury, Messenger was back on the course in October for the District 8-3A junior varsity meet. As she lined up for the first cross country meet of her high school career, Messenger conceded the emotions started to get the better of her.

“I was so nervous that morning,” Messenger said. “I don’t think I even told [Coach Essig] how nervous I was.”

But the nerves had little effect on her.

Messenger went on to win the 8-3A junior varsity title. A few weeks later, she was moved up to the varsity to run in the Region I meet. Messenger ran a 13:44 to finish 77th and fourth on the team.

“I was over the moon,” Messenger said. “I can’t even explain it.”

A year has passed since Messenger’s unlucky break on the practice field last July. Fully healed, the sophomore has been one of Paradise’s top runners this season.

At the Boyd Invitational, Messenger led the Lady Panthers, clocking a 13:33.73 for eighth place. At the Cleburne meet Sept. 14, Messenger posted a 13:54.63 for 12th overall.

Over the summer, the Lady Panthers lost several runners to graduation and injury. With Paradise returning less than half of its team from last year, Messenger said she needed to step up.

“This is where I’m going to really find out what I’m made of,” Messenger said. “I felt like this was the make-or-break point. This is where you prove other teams wrong, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

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