From athlete to assistant coach


Naya Tillisch

ONE STEP AT A TIME: Senior Grace Pollock is building her strength and working with a physical therapist in hopes of being able to walk and exercise normally once again. She has made tremendous progress since her surgery over Spring Break and is mobile with the help of a walker.

Naya Tillisch, Sports Editor

Senior Grace Pollock, once a varsity track athlete, has had an unbelievable year since she was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and forced to undergo multiple surgeries and relearn how to walk.
“I was diagnosed with a disease called lupus over the summer, which as a side effect gave me a nasty blood clot in my leg,” Pollock said. “It unfortunately put an end to my sports career.”
Pollock began running track in seventh grade and has loved it since, so her diagnosis was devastating to her senior year season.
“I used to run the 100 and 300 hurdles, and last year I had the opportunity to run in some relays,” Pollock said. “Track season has always been my favorite part of the school year. I had big plans regarding my senior year of track that weren’t able to happen. I deeply miss the ability to run and workout, which were big parts of my life before this.”
Varsity girls track coach Rey Torres has been coaching track for over 30 years, and he was a hurdler and relay runner just as Grace was.
“[Pollock] is a wonderful person who I admire a great deal,” Torres said. “Pollock is a very determined and hard working young lady who constantly puts in extra time to get faster and stronger in the hurdles. When she was running, she would stay late just to get some extra time hurdling.”
Pollock’s injuries came as quite a shock to the team, for COVID-19 kept many of her teammates and coaches from seeing her during and after her diagnosis.
“It was early summer when [I found out] about Pollock and about the situation with her clot,” Torres said. “It was terrible news and I felt horrible. Several months before, Grace had told me her calf was hurting and that she could not run. We both thought that it was a strain in the calf. Then COVID-19 hit and there was no more track last season so I had not seen or heard from Grace until [I got the news].”
Senior athlete Katherine Kastl has been close friends with Pollock since elementary school and has been by Pollock’s side through it all.
“I was really shocked,” Kastl said. “I didn’t see her for a couple of months, and it wasn’t until around June when she told me what was actually wrong.”
Kastl believes Pollock has done a great job of handling such a long and painful situation.
“She’s done a great job of focusing on the bright side of things and staying optimistic throughout her journey,” Kastl said. “Grace is a very, very hard worker. She’s always wanting to get better no matter what is thrown at her. She cares a lot about her friends and is very inclusive.”
Pollock’s recovery has been intense, for she has had multiple surgeries and is continuously working to get stronger.
“Over the summer, I had five surgeries in hopes of getting the blood clot removed, but they were unsuccessful,” Pollock said. “I’m having another major surgery [over spring break] in hopes of helping my being able to walk normally again.”
The numerous surgeries took a toll on her body, and she still feels their effects months after.
“The most difficult part of the injury was the medications I was put on,” Pollock said. “They had awful side effects like major swelling all over my body that’s just now starting to go down seven months later.”
In an effort to find a way Pollock could still be involved in track for her senior season, Torres and the other coaches had the idea to make her an assistant coach for the team.
“Grace does a wonderful job helping out as an assistant coach, [and] it is great to have her out there as part of the team,” Torres said. “Grace has her own stopwatch, so she helps me time the girls running and then records their results [at meets as well as practices]. What’s even better is that she reminds me to do things when I’ve forgotten to do them.”
Pollock has appreciated the associate coach position, for she is able to be with her team while also helping out the coaches and giving advice to other athletes.
“The coaches have been so amazingly supportive throughout this unpleasant experience,” Pollock said. “My favorite part about being an assistant coach is watching the athletes grow in their abilities. Watching everyone get faster and stronger is such an amazing feeling knowing that your team is getting better with every practice.”
Kastl explains how Pollock’s coaching position has been good for her and helped her overcome a difficult time in her life.
“Grace was a big contribution to the team [last year],” Kastl said. “As a coach, Grace is always willing to help and she really enjoys track and being around everyone. I definitely think it’s helping remind her that she’s important and still a part of the team even if she’s not able to run in meets.”
Pollock said she is incredibly grateful for the support system the track team has provided, and everyone involved is wishing her a quick and smooth recovery.
“All of her friends on the team feel horrible for Grace. They all wished that she was still able to run and compete…[and] our team misses her on the track,” Torres said. “Grace always had a positive mindset despite all the struggles she has faced. In my opinion, her great attitude [is what] has helped her to overcome this physical obstacle.”