Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Nobody would have blamed Soroco High School senior Tatum Lombardi if she had stayed home during Friday and Saturday's regional track meet in Grand Junction.
Nobody would have faulted her for simply sitting in the bleachers and keeping to herself.
Everyone, however, should commend Lombardi for the way she has persevered through the past six months.
The senior was a stalwart in the Rams track program. She'd been there for three years, is a member of the school record-breaking 1,600-meter relay team and is a pivotal part of all Soroco athletics.
But this track season has been especially trying on Lombardi.
At last season's state track meet, Lombardi had to pull out of the last relay. The pain in her feet, ankles and knees was unbearable.
So at end of volleyball season, Lombardi had surgery on both her feet. She had implants inserted just below the ankle bone to help keep her from walking on the inside of her feet.
The surgery was done so Lombardi could compete in this year's track season.
She had high hopes.
With Lombardi in the lineup, the Rams had a legitimate shot to finish in the top three at state in several relays.
But something was wrong.
The implant in her right foot started to come out.
"The pain was ridiculous," she said.
Not a huge problem at first. She went in for a second surgery, had a bone removed and a bigger implant inserted. Track season was still a possibility.
But again, that implant started to force its way out. Finally the implant was removed - and with it Lombardi's chance to compete in track.
Predictably, it's been hard on the teen.
It's a struggle to see the relays, to miss the handoffs and to not be in the blocks.
Last week, Lombardi admitted after a Soroco practice that she was a mess.
But this is where Lombardi shows the real spirit of high school athletics. Sure she missed her senior season in her favorite sport, but that hasn't stopped her from doing all she can to help the rest of her team succeed.
She holds blocks for her teammates. She works with the relay teams on handoffs and shaving off those important seconds. She also has helped mentor freshman Lauryn Bruggink, who took her spot on the relay teams.
Lombardi will attend college at the University of Northern Colorado next year and study to become a physical education teacher. Coaching is something that intrigues her, and she jokes that this track season has been like an internship.
But perhaps most important, Lombardi said she now knows something everyone should know.
"It's about not letting the bad things ever outweigh the good things."