Seeing redshirt senior pole vaulter Tori Anthony completely healthy is like seeing snow in Los Angeles.
Whether it is by misfortune or something more, saying Anthony has struggled to stay healthy on the track would be a vast understatement.
Anthony, now in her fifth year at UCLA, hopes this is the year she can avoid the injuries and other health hazards that have served as a bothersome roadblock over the past four years.
From stress fractures in her back to recurring hamstring problems, Anthony’s laundry list of injuries is long and lengthy.
“With hamstring injuries it’s so hard to know when to come back and when you’re at 100 percent again. If you pole vault on a hurt hamstring you’re going to pull it again, and I did,” Anthony said, recalling her frustrations during her sophomore season.
Anthony’s past encounters with certain injuries still cause her current discomfort if not managed properly; precautions to prevent future or repeated injury are now a part of her everyday life.
“Half of the training that I do is all preventative for injury,” Anthony said. “I do a lot of work for my back; if I stop doing that for more than a week I can feel it get progressively worse.”
It’s a mystery as to how Anthony’s body is still in one piece, let alone able to be pole vaulted over bars 14 feet off the ground. She has not been kind to her body, or maybe it’s the other way around.
Regardless, Anthony’s history of putting her body at risk began long before her days as a pole vaulter; her extensive run as a gymnast before switching to track could be an explanation for her current injury problems.
“I was a gymnast for 10 years before becoming a pole vaulter, so that definitely set my body back,” Anthony said. “Gymnastics is almost as tough on your body as pole vaulting is.”
Whatever the origin or reason for Anthony’s frequent time off the track, it’s not something she has handled poorly or had to face alone.
The women’s track coaching staff has obviously not relished watching one of its best athletes suffer through injury on a yearly basis, but the encouragement and belief has never ceased to exist in the coaches’ minds.
“I just try to talk to her about staying confident because it’s easy for you to lose your confidence,” women’s track coach Jeanette Bolden said. “I tell her that she still has it, and I let her know that the team is behind her. She hasn’t been letting up at all.”
The encouragement from her team and coaches has helped Anthony stay positive even through her injuries, and her attitude has been noticed by her jumps coach, Anthony Curran.
“She doesn’t whine when she has injuries. She just tries to figure out what we can do to overcome them,” Curran said.
It would have been understandable had the coaches and trainers lost faith in Anthony’s ability after four straight years of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities at possible greatness.
However, anyone who knows Anthony would say she deserves every chance she gets to prove herself free of the injury bug that has plagued her throughout her whole UCLA career. Her fifth year could be the charm, and if that’s the case, Anthony’s competition has a lot to worry about.
This season, Anthony has been flying high and injury-free, setting her highest marks since she began her time at UCLA.
With the support of her team and the benefit of a healthy body, Anthony is in a position to do something special at the NCAA Indoor Championships taking place in about two weeks.
“If I have a good meet I could easily be in the top three, and if the stars align I can take home the win,” Anthony said about the championship.
“If you put me in a national meet against the best in the country, I wouldn’t bet against myself.”