After 20-plus years writing, it’s rare when someone catches me off guard. Yet Bridgeport High School student Sam Hadjis did that earlier this week.
For the first time in two decades, I heard someone use the word “pragmatic” during an interview who wasn’t a coach. Although I joked with Sam quickly after he said it and we had a laugh, the reason he was using the word was far from funny.
During a recent home track meet, a lingering injury from his hamstring that forced him to miss the 2013 regional and state track and field meets struck again. Or at least Hadjis thought it did. As it turned out, Hadjis had never completely healed from the injury he sustained a season ago.
What was originally thought to be a slow-healing muscle tear turned out to be worse. Ironically, what would determine the injury to be worse than originally diagnosed was determined the same day before his most recent injury.
“I had an MRI the same day as (my most recent) injury. I could tell something just wasn’t right even before I hurt myself this time,” said Hadjis. “The MRI showed that it wasn’t a muscle tear.”
While Hadjis’ latest injury was different to the same hamstring area, the MRI revealed something else. He said it showed a partial tear in the tendon of the hamstring and now he has a strain of the same hamstring.
“This latest injury wasn’t as painful as last years, but it’s pretty tough to deal with,” Hadjis said. “This whole thing is tough to deal with.”
What makes it tough to deal with for Hadjis isn’t just the fact that he would have been a state championship contender in pole vault last year as well as this year, but it’s what he’s done since he was injured that makes this setback that much harder to swallow. While he said his practices have been limited, he’s spent almost a year stretching, doing therapy, taking ice baths, using ibuprofen, working out and trying to get his hamstring stronger. He also attended workshops, researched his event and did whatever he could to put himself into position to be back to his old form this year.
When 2014 began, he hoped for a fresh start. Early on, however, he knew something just wasn’t right.
“I managed to place second in my first two meets this year – the Connect-Bridgeport meet and the Doddridge Hosts Harrison Meet,” said Hadjis. “I cleared 11 feet, 6 inches, but it was below average.”
For Hadjis, who had cleared 14 feet in the past, it was well below the standard he had set for himself. And during the third meet, he said for the first time he felt like he was up to getting back to his old self.
“I was feeling strong. I warmed up and did three practice attempts and took a full run … On my third step is when I felt the strain in my hamstring,” Hadjis said. “It was frustrating because I’m cautious with how I approach things and I did everything I was supposed to, but it ended with me feeling a pulling, sharp pain.”
If only it were a strain. If only the MRI wouldn’t reveal so much more later that day. If only there wasn’t so much time invested.
“It just seemed like a regular muscle tear because I’d heal and I’d get hurt again,” said Hadjis. “Eventually you figure something is wrong.”
Right now, Hadjis is out. His doctor has taken him out of participating and practicing until a full diagnosis and method of treatment is developed.
“I’m pretty bummed … You do everything you’re supposed to do and you can’t compete at all let alone at the level you expect to compete at,” said Hadjis. “It’s been tough.”
Veteran BHS Coach Jon Griffith also feels for his standout. There’s nothing more he’d like to see than a late season comeback for someone who he knows has worked hard to get to where he was at.
“Sam is a great kid. It is a shame that he is banged up, but we are hopeful that he can still make it back,” said Griffith.
Griffith’s hope of a comeback isn’t necessarily pie in the sky. Hadjis himself said he’s been told there’s an outside chance that he could return to the regional meet that is less than a month away. Until then, Hadjis said he’ll contribute by working with others on the team to hopefully excel at pole vault. Still, he’s troubled how everything has shaken out.
“It’s not been a fun experience. It’s been humbling and I’ve accepted that it’s likely over,” said Hadjis. “I will do everything I can to compete at regionals and hopefully at the states, but I’m pragmatic. The odds are against me, but I’d love to beat those odds.”
As refreshing as it is to not only hear a young man use the term pragmatic and be realistic, it would be even more refreshing if Sam Hadjis’ pragmatism was off base. If he’s off base, then it wouldn’t make me or anyone else laugh, but it certainly would make us smile.
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