U sends Grove and Simonsen to NCAA meet

by Tim Klobuchar

One year ago a specialist told Andrea Grove that a stress fracture in her back might prevent her from ever running again. She was inactive, about 12 pounds heavier than normal, and terrified that she’d “never get back.”
One year ago Tanya Simonsen was in Wahpeton, N.D., attending a college named the North Dakota State School of Science. She had enormous raw potential in the javelin, but her form was so awkward she got tendinitis in her right shoulder.
Later this week Grove and Simonsen will compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet in Eugene, Ore., — testaments to the old-fashioned virtues of hard work, perseverance, and confidence.
Grove, a senior, is in the midst of attaching a perfect ending to her turbulent year. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native will compete in the 1,500-meter run Thursday in Oregon, and she will also try for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team at the Olympic Trials in June.
Grove made the NCAA Indoor Championships in the mile in 1995 but was redshirted for the outdoor season because of her back injury.
Another doctor later determined that the injury wasn’t as serious as first diagnosed, but Grove still could not begin running until last July. Once she did start training again, she still had serious doubts whether she’d ever regain her previous form.
“This fall I had a hard time practicing twice a day,” Grove said. “I was always questioning myself, ‘Is it worth it?'”
She stuck with her training, though, and by this winter was running closer to the way she wanted to. Grove was in prime shape by the outdoor season, and ranked third in the Big Ten in the 1,500 and 3,000 by the end of the season.
Grove didn’t do all this herself, however. She gives head coach Gary Wilson plenty of credit for showing confidence in her and aiding her development.
Unfortunately, Wilson might not be able to see Grove’s final collegiate race. Wilson’s father passed away Sunday, and Wilson will not be in Oregon to see the preliminary heats on Thursday. But he did tell Grove he might be able to make it for Saturday’s final.
“That’s definitely more incentive for me to make the final,” Grove said.
Simonsen did not have to fight through as serious an injury as Grove did, but she also could not draw from the previous experience and accomplishments that Grove could.
The junior started throwing the javelin only two years ago but has already shown incredible improvement this year. Thanks in great part to coach Lynne Anderson, Simonsen has improved her form immeasurably.
The better mechanics has resulted in her improving her personal best throw by more than 21 feet during the outdoor season and a Big Ten championship last weekend. There, she threw a personal-best 174 feet, nine inches. That throw automatically qualified her for Friday’s javelin competition at NCAAs, as well as the Olympic Trials.
Her whirlwind tour from small-college athlete to potential Olympian still baffles Simonsen.
“I wonder about it all the time,” she said. “It seems like a dream, and I haven’t woke up yet. So much came at me so fast, I don’t know how I’m supposed to react.”
Grove probably has similar feelings. Both athletes took such quick, although difficult, journeys from obscurity and self-doubt to prominence, that the only thing they can feel right now is the satisfaction that they completed the trip.