El Reno’s Samantha Connor – Character Counts Presented by Mercy Clinic Orthopedic Associates

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By John Tranchina

It took her about five months to battle through a debilitating hip injury, which unfortunately included all of last season, but after enduring a difficult rehabilitation process, Samantha Connor is now fully healthy again and ready to run in the 2019 track season.

Connor, who runs the middle-distance events – the 400-, 800- and 1600-meter races – returned to compete in cross country this fall.

“I am super excited for it,” said Connor, who finished 14th in the 800 at the 2017 Class 5A state meet as a sophomore (with a time of 2:31.37) but didn’t qualify last year. “Most importantly, I just want to beat my fastest time, but if that can take me to state, that would be awesome. I made it to state sophomore year, so I’d like to place better than that. That would be a goal of mine. I’d like to place in the top 10 or maybe top six if I can, something like that. The dream would be to get on the podium, but that’s like a bigger dream. Really, just better than I did sophomore year.”

Connor described the journey of conquering her injury.

“I’ve had a weak hip for quite a long time, I’ve had an uneven stride, and then one day at practice (in December 2017), it just kind of buckled on me,” she said. “I went to the doctor (in January 2018) and they concluded that I had damage and just a very weak right hip muscle flexor, so I couldn’t properly stride and I couldn’t run for very long before my leg would tighten up. It was just a lot of physical therapy and going to the chiropractor and then working at practice and having to stop when I never had to stop before. It was hard because I didn’t end up making it to state, because I couldn’t train like I wanted to, but in the end, it was good because I avoided doing more damage than I would have if I had just kept running on it like I had before.

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“Even after track season, I was still doing therapy, so the end of May was when I stopped doing physical therapy. I still go to the chiropractor and I still have to do the exercises and I still have to keep checking up on it to make sure it’s not getting worse.”

It was a frustrating process to go through.

“It was annoyingly hard,” said Connor, who also plays volleyball at El Reno. “I just had to fight through it. Track’s a sport I love and it means a lot to me, so it was worth it to keep trying and to keep running, even if I wasn’t going to get the results that I always wanted. At least I was putting something out there and I knew that at end of it, I had given it everything I had, even if I didn’t make it to state or I didn’t accomplish the goals I had in previous years.”

Now, as a senior, Connor has been named team captain, and her dedication and hard work serves as a good example to her younger teammates.

“I was kind of the co-captain last year with another senior, so it’s a responsibility,” said Connor, who also plays clarinet in the El Reno band and participates in color guard and the Blue Stem science club. “I lead the team in dynamics and I’m the one kind of setting the pace for the younger kids and showing them what track is about. It’s not like a super popular sport at our school, but it’s growing steadily over the years, so it’s nice to be able to influence the younger kids and even kids in my own grade that didn’t think that they could do it and now they do.”

“Sam has demonstrated impressive character in all aspects of her high school career,” said El Reno coach Fred Slaughter. “She has worked hard at being a great teammate. Sam showed great character dealing with her personal setback last year due to injury. She is a very special young lady.”