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Never thrown off course

Jecel Klotz had a child and suffered a debilitating knee injury but didn’t let that stop her from regaining championship form

By Jecel Klotz
As told to Jennifer Burroughs

In 2011, my sophomore year as a thrower at the University Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I competed at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Columbus, Ohio. Going into my first few throws, I had no idea I would perform well enough to end up taking first place. But that wasn’t my biggest surprise – I also had no idea that I was pregnant.

Jecel Klotz, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

After having my son in February, I took time off from the sport to raise him. A few months later, I started practicing again. Things were going well and I was throwing even farther than before my pregnancy. Then, another surprise – I tore three ligaments in my right knee. The injury forced me to take another year away from my sport to rehabilitate. There was one upside to the injury. During my time off, I married my son’s father, Jesse Klotz, a thrower from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

My two years away from competition did not break my spirit. At the start of the 2014 season, I was thrilled to finally get back to throwing. I wanted to show my family and friends that I could be a successful athlete, wife and mother. Coming back was a little tougher than I expected. I had never been injured before and wasn’t confident in my rebuilt knee. I took baby steps every day in practice.

That year, I arrived at the NCAA championships, nervous but anxious to see if all of my hard work paid off. I felt great physically and, mentally, I was in the zone. On my fifth throw, I watched the shot fly over the 15-meter line and my face lit up. It was great to win nationals individually and get third team championship under our belt.

I have made it so far from my freshman season in 2010 and my team has been with me every step of the way. We’re confident that perseverance and our team motto to “keep the fire in our hearts” will pave the way to another national championship.