Ale Rutenis captured the TAPPS 5A state championship title in the long jump on Saturday afternoon in Waco. Before Ale’s final jump, just like she does before every race, she paused and gave it all to God. She competes for His glory, and, while she knew the leader had a jump of 16’8”, Ale dug deep and gave that final jump everything she had. She jumped an impressive distance of 16’9” and brought home the state title. It has been a long and arduous journey for Ale, as just one year ago, she suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during her final competition in the TAPPS regional meet.
Ale remembers that fateful day in April of 2018 as one that shattered her dreams, but it is truly the day her comeback story was born. As she approached the starting blocks at the regional meet, a looming feeling washed over her. Though her ankle had been bothering her for a while, her competitive drive and determination trumped her physical ailments, and she decided to compete anyway. Ale was already poised to compete at the state competition, needing only a respectable finish to advance. The race started like any other as she powered off the blocks, but as she passed the 80-meter mark, she heard–and felt– something no athlete ever wants to experience: the snap. It was a dramatic and painful fall, both physically and mentally. Her dad and her coach carried her off the track, and her hopes for a state appearance that year were crushed.
Ale consulted with her doctor, and, in lieu of surgery, she decided to allow her body to heal naturally. Her doctor was frank and told her he wasn’t sure if she would ever run again, and, if she did, she might not be as fast. Her non-surgical recovery required two months in a cast for two months and an additional month on a boot before she could start physical therapy. She began training on an anti-gravity treadmill, which enabled her to move unrestricted and pain-free while restoring and building her strength, fitness, and, most importantly, her confidence. She was back to running on solid ground in November and only started sprinting again in January of this year.
It’s no secret, an Achilles rupture is one of the toughest sports injuries from which to recover. It not only challenges athletes physically, but it is a constant mental struggle, for once that seed of doubt in one’s physical abilities is sown, it is incredibly difficult to overcome. Even one year after her dramatic and devastating injury, Ale begins every day by assessing herself physically. She continues to attend physical therapy to work on her strength, flexibility, endurance, and speed.
Ale’s Achilles injury was life-changing. The moment she hit the ground and knew she was out, she was filled with anger and remained so for some time. She questioned God and why He would allow her injury. It was a taxing journey physically, mentally, and spiritually. Ale had a revelation while on the Dominican mission trip last summer with Legacy. Though still on crutches and broken, she dedicated herself to ministering to the Dominican children, and, as it turns out herself. Ale shared, “My faith was challenged more than ever. As I was surrounded by God's joyful children, I came to realize I am his child too. I cannot make my own plans, and that's okay because God's got it all.” Her faith, now fortified, became instrumental to her recovery. Although her experience was incredibly painful, Ale wouldn’t change a thing because it has made her who she is today – physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Ale Rutenis is a champion in every sense of the word. She has recovered from one of the toughest injuries an athlete can sustain and returned to Legacy a state champion. In addition to winning the long jump, Ale also claimed a bronze medal in the 100-meter and fourth in the 200-meter races. She also competed in the girls 4×100 relay. After a full day of competition, she came home to Legacy and attended the Junior/Senior Prom. Ale’s is a story of trials and triumph. Her competitive drive is simply undeniable, and we can be sure to expect great things from her in her senior year.
Ale is probably one of the most determined athletes I have ever coached. She is fierce, and she strikes fear in her competitors. During the District Long Jump, as we were passing I heard a small voice say “That’s her! She is the one we should be concerned about.” Ale is an awesome runner and more importantly a great leader and a great person. I am very proud of her.
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