If it was possible, Kally Long may have gone straight from the hospital to the track.
Cooped up in a Seattle hospital for a week in February following a scary injury at the Husky Classic, the Texas junior texted associate head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey to proclaim she’d be pole vaulting again by the Big 12 meet.
That timeline was off, though. Long will instead return for this weekend’s NCAA indoor championships in College Station.
“As an athlete, you know your body really well. I feel great,” Long said. “Some of my teammates are like, you’re rested, and I am rested. I had three weeks off. I am more than rested.”
On her opening bar at the Husky Classic on Feb. 10, Long fell to her right and missed the mat on her descent. She remembers only parts of it but remarked that it could have been “10 times worse.” She suffered a concussion and “popped” a hole in her lung.
Long was unable to fly home for a week. Additional X-rays and rest awaited her in Austin. She suffered a setback when she injured a rib while getting her back adjusted at the Big 12 indoor meet, which was held in Ames, Iowa Feb. 24-25.
Long returned to practice last Friday. This week, she said she was pleased with her workouts.
“I think most importantly, her body is in a good place,” UT assistant coach Ty Sevin said. “I think she can have a strong performance.”
The injuries stalled a strong season for Long, the daughter of a Texas pole vaulter who won state championships her junior and senior years at Wimberley. She set and then matched her personal best of 4.42 meters (14 feet, 6 inches) in her first two meets. That height gives her the fourth-best qualifying mark in the NCAA field. (Arkansas’ Alexis Weeks leads the 16-entrant field with a 4.60-meter vault).
When asked about returning for the NCAA indoors, Long said, “I feel like the only person that’s expecting anything out of me is myself.” She said she isn’t scared — at least, not yet — and a top-eight finish and nearing her personal-best height are among her goals.
Regardless, Long believes she’ll find something to celebrate in College Station.
“I’ll find small victories regardless of how I end up jumping,” Long said. “I’ll find the positives. Because of the situation, I have learned to just be thankful for everything I have and just find the positives in everything.”
Daniels’ defense: One year after winning the 60-meter dash at the NCAA indoors, sophomore Teahna Daniels will attempt to defend her title. She’s coming off a gold medal sprint at the Big 12 championships.
A 7.21-second performance at a January meet in Kentucky gives her the sixth-best time among the 16 qualifiers in the NCAA’s 60-meter event. Despite her status as the defending champion, she may not have the biggest target on her back. Oregon’s Hannah Cunliffe set an NCAA record earlier this year with a 7.09-second showing.
Daniels, though, said she needed to “just run my race” in College Station.
“Track and field is an individual sport,” said Daniels, who was seeded fifth before winning last year’s NCAA meet with a time of 7.11 seconds. “I can’t really look at somebody else’s performance and say I have to do this, this and this to beat them. I just have to figure out what I need to do with myself.”