Over the last few posts, I've talked about the races in this, Liz Looby's first full season of competition since her 2010 accident. Over the winter, she'd been a little discouraged, and wondering whether and when she could eclipse the PB she set in November, and wondered if she can recover enough from the injury to be truly competitive. The goal had become to get to qualifying time for the Olympic time trials coming this fall.
Objectively, from my perspective, things looked reasonably good: since switching to the Evo blades, she seemed to me to be able to control the injured leg better in the turns. The time trials she'd been running at the Oval, from November to mid-February were pretty consistent within a tight band. Most encouragingly, her 500 time at AmCup III in Roseville had been in that same tight time band, notwithstanding the fact that is was outdoors, at four below zero before wind chill, and at the lower altitude of Minnesota, and raced within a week of her bout with the flu. I was looking forward to seeing what might be possible at AmCup Finals in March, on her home ice, indoors, in Salt Lake City. As it turns out, we didn't have to wait that long!
8:30 AM, MST. Utah Olympic Oval. 500 meter Time Trial. Starting in the outer lane, three time Olympian Allison Baver. The same Allison Baver who, when Liz was just starting out, provided the first set of real short track competition blades we'd ever had, which Liz wore in her first Nationals and for a long time after. Starting in the Inner Lane, Liz Looby. It's a fast pace. They are both moving hard, arms engaged....Liz in the inner looks like she is leading into the turn, but its the inner so hard to be sure....switch lanes, around the final curve and coming at the camera, Liz outside, Allison in both pushing hard all the way to the line.....and it is Liz! 42.91, a personal best! Allison 43.10 a season's best! And both of them are below the Olympic Time Trial qualifying time!!!!
I can think of no better confidence booster, no clearer way for Liz to internalize that she can aspire to top level competition again! We're so proud of her and of how hard she worked to do what no one thought possible. And there is no better time to thank everyone who helped her from Tom Conley and Ellen Mularkey and others on the ice that day, to the doctors, nutrition experts, chiropractors, acupuncturists, Biomodulator operators, trainers, coaches, friends, teammates, family members, University of Utah staff and administration who's good will, prayers and friendship have helped her back to this point! Thank you all!