Salt Lake City is one of the last places Southern Utah senior gymnast Alyssa Click pictured herself being last January, but the journey to get to Salt Lake City for Saturday’s gymnastics meet hosted by No. 6 Utah is something she won’t forget.
It was on Jan. 17 of last year when Click was preparing for SUU’s meet — ironically also at the Huntsman Center — when her last floor exercise practice routine before the team traveled to Salt Lake City went terribly wrong. She tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus when she landed after one of her tumbling passes.
Not only was her senior season immediately over, but her career was also in jeopardy. However, that thought never crossed her mind.
“I knew from the start, as soon as I was laying down on the floor holding my knee,” she said, “I was coming back.”
Click instantly redshirted the season. She underwent surgery by the end of January last year, and wasted no time making her comeback attempt, starting rehab just three days after going under the knife.
The recovery wasn’t easy, either. It started with learning to bend her repaired knee, walking, doing exercises and then learning to move side-to-side on her knee again. That was all before relearning everything in gymnastics again.
Click said the process was full of doubt and questions but also one of reflection of why she decided to return instead of giving up.
“I really have to dig deep on thinking about why I’m doing this sport; why I’m putting myself through this,” she said. “I think I’ve just kind of found myself to relearn how to love this sport. I can’t do the all-around, which was one of my biggest goals (before the injury) — but just facing my fears just one last year, it’s just really weird.”
Prior to her injury, the Vancouver, Wash., native was one of the top gymnasts in the country on the balance beam. She posted career-highs of 9.925 on that event and the uneven parallel bars during her junior season, and also had tallied a 39.400 in one meet in the all-around.
She even won the uneven parallel bars title for the Thunderbirds at the 2012 Western Athletic Conference championships, and individually competed at the 2012 NCAA Regionals on the balance beam.
However, the injury ended her 2013 campaign before she had a chance to build off it.
Click said the hardest part of the recovery process has been getting back to where she used to be. She added the practices have been exhausting but rewarding.
“Gymnastics has just been really hard for me and it’s really difficult for me to say that because it usually comes easy,” Click said. “It’s been really hard trying to feel confident in my skills again.”
Overall, she said, it took about 11 months to feel closer to herself in gymnastics again. Now the senior is hoping that 2014 will be the storybook ending she originally thought 2013 would be.
“I have to remember I’m coming back from an injury and not get down on myself,” she said. “It’s just harder. That’s been really stressful knowing I can do a lot better, but (as one of my coaches) reminded me, it’s hard to do this, but this is why I’m coming back.”
Though Click didn’t expect to be competing this season, she said it ultimately ended up working out for the team, where she is the lone senior.
SUU gymnastics is in a new stage with a brand new conference, consisting of No. 18 Denver, No. 23 Boise State, BYU and Utah State, in addition to the Thunderbirds.
Click said she hopes her return will benefit the relatively young SUU team, which consists of 13 underclassmen and just five other upperclassmen.
“Everything kind of happens for a reason,” she said. “The fact that if I would have been fine last year, there wouldn’t have been any seniors (on the team) this year. So I think the team is stronger because I’m here to help lead.”