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By Joanna Chadwick
VYPE South Central Kansas
Maize South senior Mia Gibson is used to winning.
She won the Class 5-1A 100-yard freestyle as a freshman and was second in the 100 backstroke. She won the 100 back as a sophomore, was second in the 100 free.
But an injury suffered before the 2016 season hampered Gibson, and she finished a disappointing third in the 100 back and fifth in the 100 free.
Gibson is coming off yet another major injury, but she’s determined that this latest one will not keep her off the top of the podium at the Class 5-1A swim meet.
“It’s a very important goal for me right now,” she said. “Honestly, it just feels weird – I was literally at the top of that podium for two years in a row and then I’m at the bottom.
“I want to be there for my team. Getting back on top will be good for my team because my team has a goal of winning state this year. For me, right now it’s a comeback. Last year and this year I’ve had really big problems, but I’m going to come back and show people.”
As a junior, Gibson suffered a concussion during a Powder Puff football game. The concussion was so severe that she missed school.
“Two, three months later, she was still sensitive to light and couldn’t make it through school,” said Tedd Gibson, Mia’s dad and Maize South’s swim coach. “The whole time we wanted to get her in the water, but they wouldn’t clear her. By the time the high school season rolled around, she wasn’t quite ready.”
As frustrating as the concussion was, nothing tops her latest injury suffered on Nov. 1 while doing a flip turn, a movement she has completed thousands of times since she started swimming at age 8.
“My eyesight is so bad, and I never really know where the wall is,” Mia Gibson said. “I was trying to get on my stomach faster than I was trying to turn, so I missed the wall. My knee had flipped over, and it was completely straight. It was a really awkward thing.”
Gibson felt a pop, then shooting pain and needed help to get out of the pool. She initially was out of swimming for five weeks due to physical therapy.
And then it stretched to 14 weeks.
Still nothing showed up on an MRI. No ligament tears. Nothing.
Gibson had missed three months in the pool as a junior and now had been in the pool twice in about the same span.
“I did everything. What is wrong?” Gibson remembered wondering. “I’m getting frustrated. The doctor’s like, ‘nothing’s wrong.’ Nobody’s believing me. I had to wear a knee brace for the longest time. Nobody’s believing me, and I’m doing all this and it’s not working and it hurts.”
That’s when Gibson went for a second opinion and was diagnosed with a plica band injury.
“We had never heard of it,” Tedd Gibson said. “It’s usually never a problem. He went in and cleaned it up and a week later, she was in the water. She’s still trying to deal with a repaired knee; she’s not near as fast as she was.
“Her good will still beat most of them.”
“That sounded arrogant,” he said. “I didn’t mean it to. But it’s just a fact. She’s pretty darn good.”
Mia Gibson will swim at Arkansas-Little Rock, a Division I school.
It’s been a slow road, though.
“I don’t know that she’ll be 100 percent (for state),” Tedd Gibson said. “But at this point, we kind of figure that she doesn’t have anything to prove. I want her to be happy, to enjoy the ride and see what she can do.
“If she’s only 80 percent, she’ll be a top three in the back. The goal is obviously to win it. Still, I don’t know if she’ll get there.”