Eagle Valley athletic captains share competitive nature and knee injuries
In high school athletics, when two of your best athletes are out due to season-ending injuries, it’s heartbreaking. That’s exactly what happened at Eagle Valley High School last fall, when football captain Pollo Almanza and volleyball captain Whitney Van Voorst suffered knee injuries halfway into their seasons. Both seniors required surgery, and decided to get through the process together.
“Pollo had the brilliant idea to have surgery on the same day and I loved it,” says Whitney. “We’ve always been good friends and thought it would be nice to have someone there who was struggling through the same experience.”
Pollo thought having a familiar face going through the same thing would be therapeutic. His thinking was that they could deal with the pain together and be there for each other. Both agree that being together pre-surgery eased the nerves and injected some humor into the situation. But it was post-surgery when the pain kicked in full force. “After surgery, it was painful. I cried like a baby, then dozed off,” says Whitney. Pollo remembers other details. “When I woke up, I saw Whitney across the room, and then I puked,” he says.
After that, the real work began ” physical therapy. Almanza admits that Whitney was much more diligent about working her knee. “I didn’t exactly do all of my therapy but somehow my knee still healed good,” he says. Whitney worked through the brutal rehab process and quickly got her range of motion and strength back. Both athletes competed in track recently.
This fall, Pollo will head to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, while Whitney will attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Both credit high school athletics for helping develop their strength and character. Through sports they have learned to fight through adversity and that hard work pays off. Those skills were tested after their injuries.
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Whitney and Pollo displayed extraordinary leadership skills. Both supported their respective teams through their seasons and attended all practices and games ” whether or not they were on the field where they were used to competing.
Whitney’s club volleyball coach, Aaron Shepardson, says he wasn’t surprised at how she handled her injury. “Whitney has consistently showed with her actions that she understands that achievement and privilege only come through disciplined focus and effort,” says Shepardson. “Whitney sets high goals for achievement, yet never asks for anything to be given to her.”
Pollo’s coaches echo those statements. “Pollo consistently worked very hard to excel at his position so that the EVHS football team could excel as a team,” says coach Pat Gabriel. “He is, above all, a strong leader.” Almanza’s personality draws those near him. “He is always surrounded by others because we just love being around him,” Gabriel says.