After two ACL tears, Yedoni emerges

Trevor Yedoni was honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year on May 20.

Freshman Trevor Yedoni runs to demonstrate his long jump at Bierman Track and Field Stadium on May 20. Yedoni was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after having had two ACL tears, which have held him back from competing the past two seasons.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Freshman Trevor Yedoni runs to demonstrate his long jump at Bierman Track and Field Stadium on May 20. Yedoni was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after having had two ACL tears, which have held him back from competing the past two seasons.

Jack Satzinger

To the NCAA, Trevor Yedoni is still a wide-eyed freshman.

The Gophers’ extraordinary jumper is in his first year in eligibility and said he feels old as a 21-year-old freshman. But he has had his fair share of college experiences during three years on campus — from two ACL tears to a conference title and Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

Now, Yedoni is heading to the NCAA track and field championships, which begin Thursday in Fayetteville, Ark., where he’ll compete in the long jump.

Yedoni’s first season with the Gophers came to an abrupt end when he was playing basketball. While coming down from a dunk, his left leg buckled.

“I didn’t feel anything. I just heard a pop and walked off from it,” Yedoni said.

After months of rehab, Yedoni worked himself into shape during his second year and got back to doing what he does best — the high jump.

At one of the indoor season’s first meets, Yedoni approached the high jump pit at an angle, ready for takeoff, when his left knee popped again.

“When I hit the curve, my knee kind of caved in,” he said. “The curve that we run in the high jump is ultimately what did it in the second time.”

Yedoni called the rehab process boring and spent the rest of the 2012-13 campaign cheering on his teammates from the stands.

Now that he’s healthy, his teammates are returning the favor.

“Everybody enjoys him,” teammate Goaner Deng said. “This year’s his first time being fully healthy, so it’s just great to see him come along.”

Avoiding injury during Yedoni’s third season in maroon and gold required an adjustment.

ACL tears often occur when an athlete is cutting from side to side or running at an angle, so Yedoni and his coaches decided to pull him out of the high jump. Instead, he opted for the long jump, where he sprints in a straight line before landing in a heap in the sand pit.

“To let go of [the high jump]… and then to reach the Big Ten championship in [the long jump] shows you he’s a great athlete,” head men’s track and field coach Steve Plasencia said.

Plasencia said he was surprised to see Yedoni succeed at such a high level after two devastating injuries and a move away from his preferred event.

Yedoni’s mother agreed.

“To see him come through on a new event was even more special,” said his mother, Julie Melbye.

There was yet another surprise in store for Yedoni this month. Walking across the track on his way to long jump, Yedoni’s phone buzzed from a Twitter notification announcing he’d been named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Yedoni said he always planned on doing the high jump and the long jump and plans to try both next season.

With three years of eligibility left, Yedoni said he hopes his chiseled legs can take him to unprecedented heights.

“Hopefully I can be a double conference champion,” he said.