Ahead of the Curve
Features, Sports, Swimming

Ahead of the Curve

By Gaige Winchester

March 13, 2020, former president Donald Trump declares a national state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus. Students across the nation are excited for what they think will just be a lengthened spring break, but one Delta Middle School eighth grader, Annie Jackson, is not thrilled with the news.

Jackson had been scheduled for a corrective surgery for her worsening scoliosis on March 31, 2020 at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Due to the impending pandemic her surgery was put on hold and wasn’t carried out until May 6. 

Jackson had found out during her sports physical at the beginning of the school year that she had scoliosis and her spine had a 35-degree curvature. Six months later at the follow up appointment she learned it had progressed to a 54-degree curve. At this rate it can begin to impact lung capacity and make it difficult to breathe at times.

Due to this severity, Jackson’s surgery was the first of its kind at Riley after the initial COVID-19 wave passed. 

Annie will be competing in her second state finals on Friday, Feb. 10, at the Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI. She will be competing in the 100 yard butterfly and the 400 yard freestyle relay, both of which she won at sectional.

Annie Jackson after winning sectionals in the 100 yard butterfly race. (Photo Provided)

Jackson’s mother and assistant swim coach Mrs. Alison Jackson said it was nice to have her surgery be the first, because they had the full attention of the nursing staff to help her afterward.

After surgery, Annie had to stay out of the pool completely for six weeks, but doctors told her it would probably be about a year before she returned to 100 percent. She knew she would face a tough challenge, however, as she swims the butterfly stroke which is widely regarded as the hardest stroke to learn.

After sitting out those first six weeks, she got back into the pool and also did physical therapy to help level out her back muscles. She said, however, that even to this day she does not feel fully recovered.

She had to completely relearn how to swim the butterfly stroke. It was in the Delta High School pool, only six months later, accompanied by Coach Jackson and one of her club coaches, Emily Kowalski, that she attempted to do this.

Annie said she struggled with motivation at times, but having a mother that’s also a swim coach helped.

“If she felt like I could do something that I thought I couldn’t do then she would push me to do it even more,” she said. “She knew my boundaries so she helped me get through it more.”

One of the most challenging parts of her recovery process was her motivation to keep going. She said the support of her teammates, family and friends is what kept her going through the struggles. A key motivator was her sister, Olivia Jackson,  who is in eighth grade at Delta Middle School.

“I think what helped most is my sister,” Jackson said. “At sectional, after my races she would come over and hug me, crying.”

This motivation and recovery process has toughened Jackson mentally. She is known on the swim team to be determined and tenacious.

“She has grit, dedication and drive,” head coach Laura Seibold-Caudill said. “Learning the techniques of the skills of swimming and racing, anyone can do that, but what she has is grit, and when she wants something she goes out and gets it. That’s the key to her success.”

Sophomore teammate Addie Shue said Jackson’s work ethic is unmatched.

“She’s really hard working. She’s an all year round swimmer so she’s always working on her technique,” Shue said. “She is always finishing sets and just working hard at practice.”

Moving forward, she wants to keep competing at a high level and earn a scholarship to swim in college. As of right now, she’s looking at Ball State University and Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

“Don’t give up,” Jackson said. “There was a time I was thinking about quitting, but I decided I loved the sport too much to give it up.”

February 10, 2023

About Author

Gaige Winchester 2021

Gaige Winchester Gaige Winchester is a senior at Delta. He plays Baseball for Delta, and enjoys lifting weights, pickup basketball, and playing spikeball with his friends. He is a fan of Buffalo Wild Wings, The Tampa Bay Rays, and The Miami Heat.


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