Maddie Amero doesn’t remember exactly when she got hurt. But she remembers everything else.

She remembers how it felt when it became clear something wasn’t right. She remembers the surgeries, and learning they were going to cost her a season of track and field. And she remembers hearing the doctors tell her she’d be back, and not believing them.

“They said that I was going to come back stronger than I was before,” said Amero, a Monmouth Academy javelin and discus thrower and triple jumper. “But mentally, I could not believe that.”

One year later, it appears the doctors were on to something. Amero, now a junior, heads to the Class C state championships on the heels of a dominant performance in the Mountain Valley Conference championships, winning the javelin title to help lead the Mustangs to their second team championship in three years. Amero’s throw of 106-7 was over 16 feet further than teammate Destiny Clough’s, and the gap between Amero and second place was greater than the one between second and eighth.

“We all throw about the same,” said Mahala Hayden, one of four Monmouth throwers to take the top four places in the event.

The words had barely escaped when she started to correct them.

“Except Maddie throws it a lot further,” she added. “We can only wish to throw it that far.”

Amero could only hope she’d be able to after an injury that robbed her of her second season with the team. She had won the MVC javelin title as a freshman at 100-2, but was only a few practices into her sophomore season when she felt building and lingering pain in her left knee. Pieces of bone had broken off in the joint, and doctors determined that the condition had actually existed before Amero became aware of it.

“The day that I felt it, it popped, so it was a sudden sort of thing. But apparently they thought that I had already had it broken for six months, and I just didn’t notice it until then,” she said. “Once it happened it was like a split (second), aching thing. You just knew that something was wrong.”

Her season was over before she could even compete in a meet. She had two surgeries, the first in May to put a screw in, and the second in June to take it out. She was on crutches for five months, all the while wondering if she’d be able to pick up her promising javelin career where it had left off.

“I was nervous that I was not going to throw as far as I (could),” she said. “I just wanted to be back.”

Her coach, Tom Menendez, was more confident. He had seen a previous athlete, Marcques Houston, recover from the same injury, and he had seen enough from Amero to think that she could, too.

“We knew that if she did the physical therapy and all of that other stuff, there was a good chance she was coming back the way she was,” he said. “Between her being focused and doing what she had to do, I had no doubt. She’s a good kid. She wants to do this.”

With the help of school trainer Jill Haskell, Amero recovered as planned and was back playing basketball by November. Swelling in the knee prompted another break from action, but Amero knew all signs regarding the spring were positive.

“She’s been bugging me since December for track,” Menendez said. “And first day of track, she was out there and ready to go.”

Amero was physically ready, but there was still work to be done mentally and emotionally.

“I was nervous for a while that it would be in my other knee, too,” she said.

There was also the matter of trusting that she could handle her three-event workload.

“I’ve been nervous about triple jump especially, because it’s a lot on that one knee,” she said. “And discus, it’s a lot of turning. Knowing that you’re not just doing one event, but you have to prepare yourself for three, it’s like a mental thing and also a physical thing you have to be ready for.”

As Amero’s throws improved, however, her confidence grew. Once she was back in triple digits in the javelin, she knew she was back.

“In the beginning it was rough, but I feel like I’ve stepped up and come back a lot,” she said. “It’s been a long process. It felt way longer.”

Her presence has been a big one for the Mustangs, one her teammates said was lacking last year as they were denied the MVC championship.

“It’s been a relief,” Hayden said. “Last year we really struggled not having her there. … She really does help us a lot.”

“It’s someone to compete with,” said Abby Allen, another javelin thrower. “She really pushes us harder to throw further.”

She’ll face a challenge Saturday in her pursuit of a state title. Defending javelin champion Morgan Dauk of George Stevens Academy won last year’s Class C championship with a throw of 116-5, but Amero, who reached 111 feet as a freshman, isn’t about to concede first place.

“I always set a goal, and I think my goal this year is to break 115,” she said.

Just having the chance to try beats the alternative.

“I’m just grateful that I could actually be here again,” she said. “I feel better. I feel like I’ve come back stronger.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]com

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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