Eastern pole vaulter Jade Riebold was forced to watch her teammates from the sidelines this season, despite finishing No. 2 in the country the year before.
The red-shirt senior was not able to compete this season because of a chronic back injury.
“I’ve only been to one meet [this season],” Riebold said. “It was hard watching them, but I’ll be back and jumping soon.”
Riebold broke the Ohio Valley Conference record and Eastern’s school record at Indoor Nationals in 2013 with a jump of 14-feet, 7.25-inches.
Riebold’s record was a fourth of an inch higher than the qualifying height to enter Women’s Pole Vault in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Riebold did not compete this year because of a back injury she has been dealing with since she started gymnastics at three years old.
She struggles with herniated disks, went through a back surgery in 2010 and faces her next surgery on April 14th.
Since this is a chronic injury, if the surgeons were to fix it permanently, she would not be able to pole vault because of the metal they would put in her back.
“I have faith it will be better with this surgery,” Riebold said. “It’s more invasive than the first, and it’s good they’re not making me get a fusion. They let you have more options.”
Although Riebold’s injury has prevented her from vaulting this season, she is still trying to compete next year by applying for another medical red-shirt.
But getting approved for another red-shirt could be difficult since Riebold was already red-shirted. If she were, she would move onto her first year of graduate school to work toward her academics.
Riebold’s pole vault coach Kyle Ellis has optimistic views on her not only receiving another red-shirt, but also as she prepares for the surgery.
Ellis said that many basketball and football players are often approved for knee injuries, “so I don’t see why she wouldn’t [be approved],” Ellis said. “She’s going to work hard and come back faster than the regular person. She has plenty of time if she gets a medical redshirt for the outdoor season.”
If Riebold was not approved for another red-shirt, Ellis said he predicts that she would jump right into the professional ranks.
Riebold may have a chance at coming back, but was missed by the Panthers on the field this season.
“My other girls stepped up,” Ellis said. “She was definitely missed. She would win most meets, and the girls looked up to her. She is definitely a leader in the group.”
As for the future, Riebold plans to go to the Olympic trials in late June of 2016.
She qualified for the Olympics last year, but was scratched because she could not check in by the deadline because of the late notification, and her plane got delayed.
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