After a record-setting state championship meet where she swept the sprint events and ran the fastest 400-meter time in the state all season, St. Michael Catholic's Tia Acker looked to take the next …
After a record-setting state championship meet where she swept the sprint events and ran the fastest 400-meter time in the state all season, St. Michael Catholic's Tia Acker looked to take the next step in her training.
However, an ACL tear while cheerleading in early June slightly adjusted plans. It wasn't the first change in direction as Acker's sights recently shifted from aspiring to be a collegiate cheerleader to becoming a collegiate track runner.
"The plan was to go to college for cheer, because I could make (Division I) cheer too but now I'm just focusing on track," Acker said in an Aug. 5 interview. "(Two years ago,) I just wanted to do well at state. I didn't think I would do this well and now it's something that I'm doing."
What she is doing now is climbing on college recruiters' lists while attempting to determine where she'll use her allotment of five official visits.
The first is in the works for later this month at the Air Force Academy, where she is part of a group of the Falcons' top recruits who will all go through their overnight, official visits together the last weekend in August.
While she said some recruiters saw her performance at the state meet in May, others discovered her via social media when she finished second in MileSplit's Alabama Junior Track and Field Athlete of the Year contest earlier in July.
Of course, simultaneously, she was going through her rehab process following her autograft surgery to repair the torn ACL. Although she was forced to forgo competition cheerleading, she'll still be on the sidelines this fall cheering on the Cardinals and expects to be a full competitor in the next outdoor track season.
"I promised not to do anything crazy to affect my healing process because it's like three weeks until I can start jogging," Acker said last Friday. "Then I'll try to be back full-speed by the wintertime so I can hopefully enter myself in some indoor meets to kind of get the feel so I'm not peaking super late and not able to run good times in the spring."
She said the type of surgery, plus her preexisting leg strength, helped set her up for a quicker recovery although it may not seem that way through the dog days of summer.
"Since I was super strong beforehand, it was really easy for me to get it back. I almost cried one day but that was only with (the physical therapist) pushing it back because I was trying to get the range of motion," Acker said. "Other than that, PT has been fun. It just sucks because I'm not used to (nothing), like since high school I've been doing sports year-round so taking a month off is so foreign to me."
In her extra time at home, she's spent more time with her family and has been able to hone in her mentality to help her attack this rehab process.
"I really believe that mentality is everything. I think that's what got me through my season and that what's getting me through PT. It's all about perspective," Acker said. "I think that success is your hard work combined with God's work. You do your part and then He'll do the rest. I feel like I was able to get all my success from that but also waking up at 4 a.m., like who's going to do that? Not many people are going to do that so you kind of have to be obsessed with your dreams to be able to make it happen."
She's also worked on herself internally and has since developed more self-confidence than before.
"I've had to work on having the same faith in myself that other people do," Acker said. "I've had to kind of, for myself, know what I can do and work on believing in myself and having the confidence to know I can go to the Olympics and stuff like that."