Taylor Neely’s worth to the Greenwood Community High School girls track and field program is different this spring than in years past.
Depended on as one of the area’s best 400-meter dash specialists and the anchor of the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relay teams, the senior has taken on a new role as she continues to recover from ACL reconstruction surgery on her left leg.
A midfielder in soccer, her favorite sport, the 5-foot-2 Neely proved virtually unstoppable in her team’s first 11 matches. She had scored 14 goals and delivered 16 assists before she was injured in the senior day match against Franklin on Sept. 21.
It was her first significant sports injury.
“I had had sprained ankles and stuff, but never injured to where I could never do anything,” Neely said. “It was hard because I had been active every single day. I was always in a sport.
“Also, it was hard not being able to do anything in my daily activities. I couldn’t dress myself or put my socks on because I couldn’t bend my left leg at all. I had to have my sister help put my pant leg on.”
Neely underwent surgery Nov. 2, which didn’t allow enough recovery time for her to participate in her final season of track.
Tough news for a runner who as a sophomore helped the Woodmen 3,200 relay dominate the competition in 9:52.91 at the Franklin Sectional and follow that up with a first-place time of 9:38.22 at the Shelbyville Regional.
The Greenwood relay eventually placed eighth at the state meet in 9:25.77.
Among Neely’s highlights from last season was winning the 400 at sectional in a time of 59.13 seconds.
Now, instead of competing on the track, she’s competing against herself.
Thirsting for a competitive outlet, Neely, who plans to attend Franklin College in the fall and play women’s soccer for the Grizzlies, attacks her rehabilitation with the same ferocity she would a soccer match or a race.
“My doctor is actually keeping me in rehab longer because, honestly, if they weren’t restricting me on what I can and can’t do, I would be pushing it way too hard,” she said.
Woodmen coach Blaine Williams is confident Neely’s presence at all home and road meets will be beneficial to his athletes on both the girls and boys track teams.
Neely’s role will likely depend on the circumstances of a particular meet.
Maybe it’s making the rounds with stopwatch in hand voicing words of encouragement to younger, less-experienced teammates. On other days it could be Neely helping a Greenwood runner or relay foursome plot strategy for an upcoming race.
“Taylor has been awesome because she’s come to practice every single day,” Williams said. “She’s leading warmup lines and things like that, and does what she can.
“I know Taylor will be out there at meets helping out and cheering people on like crazy. I hate that this is how her senior year has gone, but she’s still part of this team.”
Taylor Neely’s soccer statistics at Greenwood Community High School: