Tabor’s Katie Tedder a testimony to painful perservance

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Katie Tedder could be the poster child for determination.

But after going through three severe knee injuries, Tedder knows that as much as she loves basketball, her life is about more than turnovers and baskets.

Her battle to contribute to the Bluejays this season has been a lesson in perseverance.

“Battling my injuries has made me a very determined person,” Tedder said. “I guess some people would call me stubborn, but when I set my mind to something, I intend to accomplish it.”

Coach Rusty Allen said Tedder’s attitude in the face of adversity is remarkable.

“I’ve never been around anyone who’s been tested to the degree Katie has been tested,” Allen said. “She’s set an inspiring example for me because she’s someone who’s taken the difficult circumstances and maintained a really good attitude.”

Tedder’s trek from North Newton to the hardwoods of Tabor College illustrate how determined she is.

The daughter of Loren and Lori Tedder, Katie played for Newton High School where she earned All-Ark Valley honors her junior year and all-state accolades her senior season.

That led Tedder to Hutchinson Community College, where she was integral to the Blue Dragons’ success.

“I was all-conference both years I was at Hutch,” Tedder said. “My freshman season we tied the school record for most wins in a season and finished second in the conference.”

Tedder scored nine points per outing her freshman year and followed that with a 14-point average as a sophomore, leading numerous Division I schools to her doorstep.

Tedder settled on the University of Maryland-Baltimore County over Indiana State and the University of South Alabama.

“I got to fulfill my dream of playing Division I basketball,” she said.

But the personable Tedder wasn’t comfortable in her new surroundings.

“I got there and stayed for a summer and the fall semester,” she said. “But I realized my life consisted of more than basketball.”

That realization led Tedder back to Kansas.

“My heart was guiding me back home,” she said.

Fortunately for Tabor College fans and Coach Allen, Tedder was familiar with the Bluejay program and it with her.

“I had played pickup basketball at Tabor before,” Tedder said. “Coach Allen had recruited one of my former teammates (Casey Stucky) out of Hutch, so he was aware of who I was and the kind of basketball player I was at Hutch.”

Tedder made subsequent visits to Tabor campus as well as other schools, but settled on the Bluejay program and arrived on campus for the spring semester in 2004.

By NAIA rule, Tedder had to sit out the spring semester but had her eyes focused on contributing the following season 2004. But early June shattered Tedder’s plans when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament.

Successful reconstructive surgery was performed in late June.

“They used my own patella tendon-they cut out the middle third-and grafted it into my knee,” she said.

Tedder’s rehabilitative progress was remarkable. But her road to recovery hit a pot hole when, just weeks into the fall practice session, her knee failed once again.

“They weren’t sure it was completely torn until they went in for a scope,” she said.

They did and it was. On Dec. 30, she had her second surgery. This time they used an allograft, which is a tendon taken from a cadaver.

Adding to Tedder’s anxiety was the fact her Bluejay teammates breezed through the KCAC, winning the first conference title in 13 years and a berth in the NAIA national tournament.

Tedder took her spot on the bench in stride with pride.

“I couldn’t think of a better team to be a part of, sitting out and watching,” she said. “Just being a part of a team that’s so talented that we went to the national tournament and I got to be a part of that is amazing.

“It was frustrating sitting out at times, but I had to have faith, knowing it was part of God’s plan,” she added. “I had to have faith it would work out for the best, whether that meant sitting out or competing again.”

For eight long months, Tedder focused on strengthening her reconstructed knee through grueling rehabilitation.

“Katie worked very hard every single day,” Allen said. “She does it and you don’t even know it because she never complains. But she spends a couple hours a day working out and I mean working to the point of exhaustion.”

But Tedder met with another setback early into the fall semester, when, during a pickup game, she tore her ACL for a third time.

“In October, I had surgery but I decided not to repair my ACL,” Tedder said. “They just trimmed the meniscus, which had further tears. But they left my ACL, hoping I could rehab and strengthen everything else around the ligament and see if I could play.

“Every time you have reconstructive surgery, the probability of it being successful decreases,” she added. “So I decided to play without an ACL because it almost came down to the fact I was taking a risk either way (surgery or not) and this way I had an opportunity to play this season.”

Tedder’s outlook was complicated by the memory of two ex-teammates from Hutchinson who each tore their ACL three times as well. Neither of them ever competed again.

Tedder’s decision to try playing without an ACL came after serious soul searching.

“I did a lot of praying and I knew I wasn’t done yet,” she said. “I felt like I needed one more time to put that jersey on, to lace (shoes) up one more time and I’d be satisfied and that was my goal, just one more time. In my heart, I knew I wanted to compete one more time although I didn’t have any idea what level that might be at.”

On Dec. 30 at Chickasha, Okla., Tedder entered the lineup, donning the Tabor blue and gold and sporting an athletic brace on her damaged left knee. She responded with six points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

“It was almost two years to the date that I had last competed in a college game,” Tedder said. “There was a lot of anticipation to say the least, but it’s an amazing feeling to be back out there.”

Allen said Tedder’s return has been an inspiration to everyone.

“She really helps our team out because she gives us another good player on both ends of the court,” he said. “She’s still very good fundamentally, even though she’s been slowed down.”

Tedder said feeling pain-free isn’t a part of basketball anymore.

“I don’t really have pain as much as a discomfort,” she said. “During the game, that natural high you get or adrenaline rush you get masks the pain.

“It’s after the game and the day after that I really feel it, but it’s nothing more than my body can handle.”

While it’s nice to be back on the court, Tedder realizes her abilities aren’t what they were prior to surgery.

“When I can’t do something it gets frustrating, but that’s the way it is and I just have to keep working at it,” she said. “Everybody has limitations and I know what mine are, but I keep trying to push that envelope further every day and I think I’ve done that.

“My knee might not be getting stronger, but it’s not getting weaker and that’s what’s important to me,” she added. “We have the most crucial time of the season now and it all builds up to the national tournament. I just hope I’ll still be able to play in a couple of months.”

Although she continues to play, Tedder said her brush with a career-ending injury showed her there is life after basketball.

“For a long time that’s who I was-a basketball player. But when that’s taken away, I had nothing to fall back on but my faith. Because of this, I can walk away a lot stronger person and one that’s not just a basketball player.”

Once the season ends, Tedder will head back to the operating table to have her ACL repaired once again.

Also on her radar is a college degree.

“I’ll graduate in May with a degree in natural and mathematical science with a concentration in biology,” she said. “I’m planning on a career in the medical field, and I’ve definitely thought about physical therapy because I’ve had amazing people work with me during all my rehab.

“I guess the hands-on ability to really change somebody’s life or impact their health for the better is a great draw,” she said.

“I’m the first one in my family to attend college, so I’ve taken that to heart and want to make something out of my college experience other than basketball.”

Although the road to Tabor took many twists and turns, Tedder said said the journey has been good.

“Even after battling all the injuries, I think I’m in a better place because of what I’ve been through and I’m a better person,” she said. “I’ve landed in an amazing place and atmosphere.

“I’ll walk away from Tabor grateful for having had the opportunity to be in a place that really shaped my life spiritually,” she said. “Those memories will carry on long after the wins and losses of a basketball season.”

Update: Tedder’s comeback suffered one more setback Thursday when she re-injured her knee in the second half against Sterling. According to training staff, Tedder could return to action in as little as two weeks.

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