Willmar Cardinals junior: ‘It feels amazing to be back’
Read how Abby Coquyt completed her long journey from knee surgery during meet against Brainerd
WILLMAR — After a devastating knee injury nearly jeopardized her season, Abby Coquyt returned to the sport she loves most.
Recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered during the summer, the junior made her season debut for the Willmar gymnastics team Friday.
Winning each of the four events, the Warriors bested the hosts by a score of 141.95-133.6 at Willmar High School.
A state qualifier each of the last three years, Coquyt competed on the uneven bars and balance beam.
“It feels amazing to be back,” Coquyt said. “It felt like I was back home, I guess you could say. It’s a really good feeling to be back.”
During the second rotation of the evening, Coquyt, who wore a large brace on her left knee, was the third Cardinal in line to compete on bars. Following some pacing, some words of encouragement from senior teammate Kirah Kessler-Gross and an elaborate handshake and dance with fellow teammate Tayva Carruthers, Coquyt was ready to go.
“I was pretty nervous, but the main thing was that I come out to try and help the team today,” the junior remarked. “I hope I delivered that, because at the end of the day, it’s all about the team and how well we did. I’m very proud of us today.”
Receiving the arguably the loudest cheers of the night from her teammates, the fans in attendance and even many of her Brainerd opponents, Coquyt perfectly stuck her landing, finishing in a tie for sixth with junior teammate Jessica Miller after receiving a score of 7.9.
With one event down in her comeback, she admitted to shedding some tears afterwards.
“I actually told the girls that I needed them to be loud for me because when you are only hearing screaming, you kind of blur out everything else,” Coquyt said. “It’s better than doing gymnastics in silence.”
Moving on to her beam routine next, she says she almost forgot her jumps. But after two front walk-overs, Coquyt gave Carruthers a wink prior to a back-tuck and a clean dismount. Her routine earned her a score of 8.5, good for seventh place to end her night.
“This night was long awaited,” the junior said. “I’ve been thinking of this day coming back for a very long time. ... It was a relief to finally get it over with and I was so proud of myself to come this far. It’s only four-and-a-half months for me, so to be doing what I’m doing right now, I’m just really proud.”
With wins in the vault and uneven bars, Warriors freshman Izzy Olson cruised to a comfortable victory in the all-around, posting a scoring of 36.0. Victorious on the floor, Brainerd freshman Breanna Deason claimed second with a mark of 35.25.
Kessler-Gross put up the highest Willmar score of 34.475 to take third.
“Tonight was the best meet we’ve had yet, even if some of the scores didn’t show it” Cardinals co-head coach Doug Rossum said. “Getting Abby back after the knee injury and surgery, it really kind of lifted everybody up. ... Like I said before, it’s going to be a slow climb, but we are going to keep cleaning and keep climbing.”
How her road began
Deciding to join the Willmar girls soccer team for her junior season, Coquyt torn her ACL after colliding knees with an opponent.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Coquyt said. “I wasn’t really in bad pain, I guess. But my knee started giving out a little bit more than it usually should have.”
At the time, Coquyt was going to physical therapy for a prior back injury and requested that doctors take a look at her knee. Following an MRI, it was then when the tear was discovered.
“It was definitely the worst news I’ve had in my life,” Coquyt said.
Operated on by Dr. Nathaniel Slinkard at the Willmar Surgery Center, Coquyt underwent surgery immediately afterward and was told that she would be on the shelf until the following January. However, six weeks ahead of schedule, she was cleared for physical activity in late November.
Coquyt was named as one of the gymnastics team captains, joining seniors Mercedes Schueler and Presleigh Schrupp. Given that she could only watch, the junior chose take a positive attitude toward the situation, serving almost as a coach by lending her advice from the sidelines.
While she embraced the role of a team leader, Coquyt’s focus remained on getting back to competition. That focus required a change in her mindset.
“At first when I tore my ACL, I was really disappointed just because I had really high expectations coming into my junior year,” Coquyt said. “Now as the season is starting, I kept telling myself: ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’”
Once cleared to practice, Coquyt expressed confidence in her knee holding up, explaining that she knew her body and felt the strength in her knee increasing. Others express concern, namely and most understandably, her parents. Both with Brenda Coquyt, Abby’s mother, in attendance, the night couldn’t have gone better.
“I still worry about something happening, but her surgery was here, her trainer was here. She goes to PT once a week, so I just have to have faith that they are OK with her doing this,” Brenda said. “I’m just thankful and proud of her being here. It really has only been 23 weeks since she had major surgery on her knee. I’m just so proud of her for being out here and wanting to get back to where she was.”
ALL-AROUND — (1) Izzy Olson, B, 36.0 (2) Brenna Deason B, 35.25 (3) Kirah Kessler-Gross, W, 34.475
VAULT — (1) Olson, B, 9.35 (2) Kessler-Gross, W, 9.325 (3) Ellie Selisker, B, 9.275
BARS — (1) Olson, B, 8.95 (2) Brooklyn Jones, B, 8.675 (3) Kessler-Gross, W, 8.250
BEAM — (1) Josie Harguth, B, 9.4 (T2) Olson, B, 9.1 (T2) Deason, B, 9.1
FLOOR — (1) Deason, B, 9.2 (2) Keanna Smith, B, 9.0 (3) Presleigh Schrupp, W, 8.7