In life, we are often defined by the choices we make.
Sometimes they’re small choices, like what to eat for breakfast or what shoes to put on before leaving the house.
Other times, these choices can be a lot bigger, with life-altering consequences.
For senior Simone Reynolds, a thrower on the women’s track and field team, the choice was simply whether or not she would finish what she started. Although, simply may not be the right word to describe it. In fact, there was nothing about her recent journey that could be classified as simple.
“It was hard. I realized okay, you’re going to have to start at the bottom,” said Reynolds. “You’re going to have to fight and you’re going to have to work hard and rebuild yourself.”
The fight began in April of 2017 when Reynolds severely injured her throwing shoulder at a meet. The injury forced her out of competition and required major surgery to fix. The surgery, which took place on May 25, completely reconstructed her shoulder and forced her to make a big decision on whether or not to come back and compete in her senior season.
“She could have easily given up on the idea of competing in track again, but she stayed strong and kept fighting,” said graduate student Jayme Gonzales, Simone’s teammate and fellow thrower. “Simone never complained about her injury or any of the work she was putting in. She looks at each day as a new start and doesn’t let anything hold her back.”
For Reynolds, the choice to continue fighting was never hard to make. She grew up playing sports her entire life, and there was no way she was going to stop now.
“I just always had sports in my life and it was ingrained in me that that’s what you’re supposed to do, especially to stay healthy. So there was never a time when I didn’t want to play a sport,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds not only grew up playing sports, she also comes from a family with a successful athletic background. Her father, Don Reynolds, was an outfielder for the San Diego Padres. Her uncle, Harold Reynolds, also played in the majors – mostly for the Seattle Mariners. Despite the fact that she had two immediate family members playing professional sports, Reynolds says it always felt “really regular” growing up with that type of background.
Something that wasn’t regular, however, was the strong mentality that was ingrained in Reynolds. Whether it be in sports or just everyday life, she was always raised to be mentally strong.
“My dad comes from an extremely successful background with academics as well. He majored in psychology, so he walks me through the mental steps to prepare as an athlete and to prepare myself for the hard times and good times and everything in between,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds father also got his masters in guidance and counseling, which likely helped him instill a strong mentality in his daughter. That type of mentality is what prepared Reynolds for her lengthy recovery and eventual comeback. It’s the thing that separates her from the competition and inspires not only herself but also the people that are around her everyday.
“Despite facing all the difficulties that come from having surgery and having to work back to where she was, Simone is always supportive of everyone on the team,” said Gonzales. “She’s always there with some inspiring and encouraging words whenever someone needs to hear them. She’s an irreplaceable part of this team.”
After successful surgery, Reynolds began training with an organization known as New Athlete in Vancouver, Washington. Just two weeks after her surgery, Reynolds was already working out, doing little things like squat lunges and contractual things with her body. She worked five to six days a week, three to four hours a day up until August when she had to return to school. Even after she got back, she continued to train and rehab in preparation for the new season.
“She has done everything possible to get healthy and has an unwavering dedication to succeed,” said head track and field coach Kendra Reimer. “Many people would choose to quit and walk away when things get bad, but Simone decided to conquer her challenges and focus on a positive outcome. It really speaks to the type of person Simone is and the character she possesses.”
It’s been nine grueling months since her surgery and Reynolds is already back to competing. She still continues rehabbing in order to maintain the strength in her shoulder, and while she’s starting to feel great, Reynolds still isn’t satisfied with where she’s at yet.
“I’m just working towards the next day to be better every single day. I see where I started and where I am now and I just see great improvement,” said Reynolds. “It’s all about progression so with me, I’m just going to keep progressing, keep pushing my weight and putting the reps in. I’m not going to stop.”
The team will be competing at the Kim Duyst Invitational in Turlock, California this weekend, March 2-3. Reynolds will be in attendance – not as a member of the crowd – but as a participant on the field with her teammates. She serves as a living reminder that any obstacle can be overcome, as long as you choose to fight and put in the hard work.
“It’s not the end. There are times you will feel like it’s the end but it’s not,” said Reynolds. “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is going to be brighter than any of the other lights have ever been before.”