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Forgetting the Past: Union/A-C Valley’s Blauser Focused on Getting Back to State Meet in Long Jump and Claiming Perch Atop Podium

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Sometimes the memory creeps into Baylee Blauser’s mind.

(Baylee Blauser jumps at a meet earlier this season/photo by Lori Blauser)

Stepping in the divot between the infield dirt and the outfield grass during her final softball game at A-C Valley. Her left ankle twisting horribly. Crumpling to the grass, pain snaking up her leg.

The realization her track and field quest for a state championship in the long jump was over, an agony worse than any debilitating sprain.

Every day it got better for Blauser — her ankle and her mindset.

These days, she is as healthy as she has ever been — physically. Emotionally, she feels like she is almost there.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

“Honestly, physically, I was OK,” Blauser said. “Mentally, I was so nervous. I was so anxious. When I started volleyball in October, it wasn’t sore all the time like it was before. During basketball season, I wasn’t thinking about my ankle all the time, but there were incidents that put a shiver down my spine.”

It was natural for Blauser to worry about ever tinge of pain, every awkward landing, every player falling around her feet.

It was normal for Blauser to feel traumatized.

She lost so much in an instant.

As a junior, she was breaking her own school record in the long jump in virtually every meet and had her sights set on a lofty spot on the podium at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in the long jump. Blauser had one of the best distances in the state. Her technique was spot on. She was soaring.

But just a week before the District 9 meet, fate intervened. A bad step. A twist. It was all over.

Blauser tried to battle through the ankle injury that was so bad, she had to make a deal with her doctor to keep competing. She tried to ignore the stiffness and pain.

Blauser did enough at the district meet in the long jump to qualify for the state championships, but in Shippensburg, the ankle was too balky and Blauser did not place.

The way Blauser sees it, the best way to expunge those bad memories is to make really good new ones.

Blauser is well on her way.

She has already broken two A-C Valley school records in the early part of 2022 — one in the triple jump at 37 feet, 6.5 inches, and another surprising one in the 100-meter dash at 12.6 seconds.

Blauser holds the best long jump distance in school history at 18-3.5.

Competing for Union/A-C Valley now — the track and field teams at the school merged into a co-op before this season — Blauser is building toward another run at a gold medal — or two.

She competed in two big indoor meets this winter in the hopes of shaking off the rust and ironing out the kinks. She’s also ironing out a a new landing and wanted to see it in action during a live competition.

Winning gold medals and posting big distances wasn’t on her agenda in those two competitions — both at Slippery Rock University, where Blauser will compete in college. Instead, Blauser had other goals, namely feeling comfortable again with her ankle and working on her technique.

“It was nerve wracking at first, I’m not gonna lie, because I didn’t really know what to expect,” Blauser said. “I was nervous in the triple jump because I do my first phase off of my left foot that I hurt. But after the first jump, I was fine. I got excited because I was like, ‘OK. I don’t have a bum ankle anymore.’”

Blauser’s work on her landing is starting to pay dividends.

“Oh my gosh, it helps my jumps so much,” Blauser said of the new hitch-kick landing, which helps her create more height and potentially better distance. “I need to hold my feet up a little longer. I haven’t been able to jump the way I’ve been wanting to yet this season for my long jump, but once it finally clicks, I am very excited to see what happens.”

Union/A-C Valley co-head track and field coach Shanna Tharan, who is also the jumping coach, can also see the big potential from Blauser.

“She’s already meeting her expectations,” Tharan said. “I look for her to do even better. There’s nothing holding her back.”

Blauser is determined that nothing will.

Despite her experience at the end of last spring, Blauser decided to join the volleyball team for the first time a month into the season and played well for the Falcons.

This winter, she led A-C Valley in scoring on the basketball court.

It would have been easy — and understandable — had Blauser given up every sport but track and field, but she didn’t.

“It gave me more confidence about my ankle, honestly,” Blauser said. “I knew I was never going to play basketball again, and I wanted to finish it out.”

She wants to finish out her high school career high atop the podium in Shippensburg at the end of May.

“If that were to happen,” she said, “I’d probably cry.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.