Injury keeps senior out of softball, track
By Holly Neumann
A familiar face will be missing from the Manawa softball and track teams’ lineup this spring.
Haley Reierson, a four-sport athlete at Little Wolf High School, was looking forward to participating in all four sports – volleyball, basketball, softball and track – as a senior.
A knee injury in the Wolves’ Division 4 basketball tournament win over Roncalli Feb. 21 in Manitowoc ended any chances of Reierson competing in softball and track this spring.
Reierson had torn her ACL and MCL. She also had medial meniscus, lateral meniscus and medial patellar retinacula tears, which will all require surgery.
“Watching Haley’s injury was devastating,” girls’ basketball coach Pat Collins said. “When she went down, we could tell it was bad right away.”
“I was going up for a layup and I had hardly left the floor when I felt pain,” Reierson said. “I fell to the floor and when I looked down, my kneecap was not in place.”
Even after being carried from the floor, Reierson eventually returned to the bench to watch the remainder of the game.
“She is one of the toughest people I know,” Collins said. “Despite the fact that she completely blew out her knee, she returned to the bench and cheered on her teammates.”
“It was hard to sit there,” Reierson said. “I knew I needed to be there for my teammates. I was their head captain. I had to try to keep it together despite all the pain.”
The 12th-seeded Wolves eventually handed the fifth-seeded Jets a 53-47 defeat.
“The game started out like no other,” Reierson said. “We were all messing together, it was great. We did get the win, but the game ended a lot differently than I thought it would. It is something I am never going to forget, that is for sure.”
In honor of her hard work, Collins included Reierson in the lineup for the Wolves tournament game Feb. 24 against Mishicot.
“We were losing by 20 points and we just wanted to do something special to honor her,” Collins said. “We subbed her in the game with a minute left and called timeout. Everyone in the gymnasium gave her a standing ovation. It was a nice moment for a very deserving kid.”
Reierson was very humbled by the experience.
“I did not know what to do,” she said. “I just looked at my coach and he started to tear up a little bit. That one moment meant so much to me.”
The injury not only ended Reierson’s basketball career, it also put an end to her final season of softball before it started.
“When I heard Haley was hurt and was done for the year, my heart dropped,” softball coach Todd Zielke said. “I thought of her and how she was feeling being a senior and not being able to play. This year is the year they waited a long time for. Not having Haley is a big loss for the team.”
Reierson was the Wolves’ starting shortstop and leadoff batter.
“The hardest part is knowing all the work I have put into this since third grade and knowing that I will not be putting that jersey on again and walking onto the field or standing in the batter’s box again,” she said.
Sports have been a big part of Reierson’s life.
“I have been participating my whole life,” she said. “I love every part of it. The team part, the friendships, the competition, I loved it all.”
That love showed in her work ethic.
“Haley is dedicated,” Zielke said. “She never misses a practice, shows up at open gyms and is one of the leaders. She is always encouraging teammates.”
If someone is struggling with their batting, Reierson is the one cheering them on.
“She is truly special,” Collins said. “She is the most consistently hard-working athlete I have been able to work with. Some kids get called ‘gym rats’ because they never leave the gym. Haley has been deemed a ‘gym gerbil’ because rat just doesn’t fit her. She is always staying after practice and putting in extra work.
“Coachable is a word that coaches throw around sometimes,” he added. “In Haley’s case, it couldn’t fit better. She is like a sponge. She takes feedback and just always wants to get better. Each year I’ve coached her, she’s improved and this year was no different.”
Zielke plans on keeping Haley involved with the softball team as much as possible this spring.
“I want to keep her involved,” he said. “Just having her around practice or in the dugout at games will be beneficial, cheering the team on, encouraging the players and players filling her shoes. Even helping out with the scorebook.”
Reierson likes the idea of staying involved as well.
“I have played in enough games where I can give them good advice from my experiences and help them succeed in their season,” she said. “Mentoring my teammates is important to me. I think I can be a positive influence to the underclassmen.”
Reierson’s teammates helped her through the ordeal.
“We share a pretty close bond on both the basketball and softball teams,” she said. “They are like family. I could not get through this without them.”
The daughter of John and Carla Reierson, Reierson plans to major in elementary education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
“I am not going to lie, I have cried a lot over this, but I have also learned not to take a second for granted, to always work hard and cherish the moments with your teammates,” she said. “Things happen quickly and your life can change, but it is not the end, it is only the beginning.
“This is just part of my journey,” she added. “This is going to be a setback, but I will not let it stop me.”