BYFIELD — Kerstin Darsney will enter Sunday’s Mass. State Track Coaches Elite Invitational ranked as the state’s No. 2 high-jumper.
The Triton senior captain’s ranking in the high jump is all the more remarkable when considering she is one year removed from suffering a shoulder injury that nearly ended her high school career in the event.
Competing against Hamilton-Wenham in a dual meet last January, Darsney fell awkwardly on her arm, aggravating a pre-existing shoulder injury. She missed the remainder of the season, although her performance in December and early January was enough for Cape Ann League coaches to name her CAL Athlete of the Year, even though she missed the league championship.
Darsney returned to the track for the outdoor season eight weeks after suffering the injury. While she did not compete in her marquee event, the high jump, she did perform well enough in the hurdles to earn CAL Athlete of the Year again in the spring.
“She just kept coming to practice and going to the weight room,” Triton coach Joe Colbert said of Darsney’s rehab. “It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached some special athletes.”
Although Darsney’s injury occurred at the worst possible time in terms of college recruiting — as most coaches use championship season results as a basis for scholarship offers — the then-junior received an offer from UMass Lowell, a program that switched to Division 1 this season.
“It’s definitely hard to miss out on junior year because that’s when people typically do the best times and heights,” Darsney said. “Colleges are looking for athletes, so it definitely did hurt a little bit. Some coaches followed up knowing I’d come back.”
With her commitment to UMass Lowell in place heading into this season, Colbert and Darsney’s parents discussed having the senior captain avoid the high jump altogether rather than risk another injury.
“I think we were hesitant as coaches and parents,” Colbert said. “She was chomping at the bit. We had a debate among ourselves, asking, ‘Should we allow it?’ She’s also a top hurdler, but there was no way she’s wasn’t going to high jump. That’s just what she loves to do.”
Darsney attempted her first high jump in almost 11 months at Triton’s first preseason practice in November. She remembers her previous injury being at the forefront of her thoughts before she went over the bar for the first time.
“I was definitely nervous, but when we started practicing it, everyone was there supporting me,” Darsney said. “I had a really good community around me. I was OK with it.”
In a surprising turn of events, Darsney picked up right where she left off before her injury despite the 11-month layoff. She broke her own school record of 5-6 in the Vikings’ first meet against Newburyport, jumping 5-7. Heading into this weekend’s Elite Invitational, only Marshfield’s Ellen DePietro has posted a better result than Darsney this season.
Darsney’s return has also sparked Triton as a team. The Vikings (6-1) have already won five more meets than last year with three meets remaining on the schedule.
“We only won one meet last year, and now we’re 6-1 and contending,” Colbert said. “She’s a huge part of that. She has developed into such a leader. The work ethic she has, the girls just follow her around and follow her lead. We wouldn’t be where we are without what she’s doing as an athlete, but what she’s become as a leader is even more impressive.”