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Kuhl back in the fast lane after injury

Hanover star overcomes serious knee injury to return to state meet.

Hanover’s Amanda Kuhl, a sprinter on the school’s track team, will compete in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes in the state meet, which starts today in Shippensburg.

Pete g. wilcox/the times leader

HANOVER TWP. – When Hanover Area’s Amanda Kuhl felt the searing pain rip through her left knee, her first thought was that her athletic career had come to an end.

But after six long and grueling months, it looks as if it’s only getting started.

Kuhl, who recently accomplished her goal of winning three individual sprinting gold medals at the District 2 track and field championships, went through major reconstructive surgery on her left knee after going down in a January 2007 basketball game against Northwest Area.

It was the start, she said, of the hardest thing she had ever gone through.

“I went through six months of physical therapy,” said the Hanover Area junior, who will compete in the PIAA Class 2A Track and Field Championships, which start today at Shippensburg University. “Every day it was hard and intimidating. All through rehab, I never thought I would be able to come back and run as well as I have.”

When Kuhl went down, she didn’t just injure her knee. She destroyed it.

Her injuries included tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), and meniscus in the knee, as well as the iliotibial band in her left thigh.

In short, she tore nearly every part of her left knee.

“Her knee was really messed up,” said Theresa Stuck, Kuhl’s physical therapist and, coincidentally, a former Hanover Area track and field athlete. Stuck works at John Heinz’s Spine and Sports Center in Wilkes-Barre. “We normally see athletes who tear just one ligament in a knee; she tore all four. Hers was one of the more severe injuries we’ve seen in a while.”

But Kuhl wasn’t without resolve. She began working. And she began to heal – quicker, in fact, than anyone had expected.

Stuck said the average rehabilitation time for an athlete with a tear in one ligament is nine to 12 months for that athlete to return to top form. She initially pegged Kuhl to be back on the playing field in a year.

But Kuhl was running cross country six months later, playing basketball in the winter and in top form for track and field in the spring.

“I’d have to say she progressed a lot faster than all of us expected,” said Stuck. “We were looking at a year with her injuries. For her to be back running cross country in that short a time, that’s pretty good.”

Kuhl’s therapy was tailor-made for a track and field athlete, something Stuck said she and Kuhl talked about during their sessions.

“In track, the reward is winning,” said Kuhl. “But when you’re in rehab, the only reward is more rehab. It really makes you feel like the underdog.”

And seeing how Kuhl was progressing with her therapy delighted Hanover Area Coach Al Weston, who admitted there were times he thought he’d lost a promising young runner. Kuhl qualified for the state meet as a freshman in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles before missing last season while rehabbing her knee.

“In the offseason we talked about maybe switching her to the 800-meter,” said Weston of the months leading up to this season. “We weren’t sure she could handle the sprints. Then she started to run and she did fairly well and we thought, ‘Let’s try some speed.’”

It was in a preseason exhibition that Weston finally made up his mind.

Running against Wyoming Valley West, Kuhl posted a time of 12.9 seconds in the 100, then went out and won the 200 and 400 races in the same speedy fashion.

To Weston, it was like having the old Kuhl back.

“I thought to myself, ‘Holy gosh, she’s running well,’” he said. “Then she comes back and wins the 200 and 400, I couldn’t believe it.”

After a season of training – and dominating in the Wyoming Valley Conference – Kuhl has earned her ticket to the state meet, which begins today. She’s a fourth seed in the 100 (12.46), a No. 10 seed in the 400 (59.14) and a sixth seed in the 200 (25.76).

“When all this happened, I though my only trip to states was going to be the one I made in my freshman year,” said Kuhl. “Getting there again just makes me extremely excited. I’m hoping for the best and I’m going to give it my all.”

UP NEXT PIAA Track and Field Championships

WHEN: Today and Saturday, preliminary events begin at 9 a.m.

WHERE: Seth Grove Stadium, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg

INTERNET: Live stats available at www.piaa.org and www.ship.edu

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