Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Skyline's Rachel Webb, center, runs in 2005. Webb is having a great senior season after overcoming a serious head injury suffered a year ago.

Rachel Webb does not remember many details from the January day a year ago when an afternoon of sledding with friends turned nightmarish. She recalls hearing a friend's frantic phone call describing the "dent" in her head.

But she cannot say how or why she went from riding a sled to clinging to her life.

"I kept going in and out of consciousness," Webb said. "I remember my friends were right there with me. I just remember lying there with them — but that's about all."

Upon reaching the emergency room, the prognosis was grim. Webb had shattered her skull and one side of her head was essentially mashed in. Surgeons used eight titanium plates and 28 screws to repair the damage that had been done.

It seemed like a particularly cruel blow to her budding athletic career.

Webb showed lots of promise as a distance runner while a freshman at Skyline. She finished third at the 2004 5A cross country championship with a time of 19 minutes and 19.8 seconds. Later that spring, Webb took third in the 3,200 and 4th in the 1,600 in the 2005 5A track and field championship meet.

Knee surgery to remove a bone tumor wiped out her sophomore season. Now another season was lost while she tried to recover from a shattered skull.

Throwing in the towel and closing the book on her track career would have been understandable. But Webb was determined to put on a Skyline uniform once more in time for her senior season.

"I had no doubt I would be back running again," Webb said. "They told me I didn't have any brain injuries. I could walk and do everything fine, so I knew I was going to get back running soon."

What Webb has accomplished in the weeks and months since her horrific accident is nothing short of miraculous. She started up with cross country meets again last September and capped off her comeback in that sport with a 14th place finish in the 5A championship meet.

Webb is on an even higher level with track. She placed third in the 1,600 meters at the Alta Invitational over the weekend. Her finishing time of 5 minutes and 21.91 seconds was only 5.82 seconds behind event winner Candace Eddy.

"Unless she pulls up her hair and you see her scar, you would never even know," Eagles coach Tom Porter said.

Webb has had to navigate some moments of frustration. She returned to school three weeks after the sledding accident. But it took four months before she could even jog slowly.

Webb had to essentially rebuild her distance running skills from scratch.

"I was just worried I wouldn't get back up to where I was before," Webb said. "And I'm still working on that. But right now, in track, I'm basically up there."

Even with an abbreviated high school career, Webb has drawn attention from several colleges. Western State and the University of Utah both offered scholarships. She also has drawn interest from Washington and Michigan State.


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