RESTON — Sarah Brown wants to be patient. She really does, but sitting still simply isn’t in her nature.
Three months of inactivity have been extremely difficult for Stafford’s senior all-around player. A severe ankle injury has prevented Brown from taking part in little more than conditioning sessions this winter and that has been a constant source of frustration.
She’s rehearsed the dance portion of her floor routine and worked out some on the uneven bars, but that’s been about the extent of her preseason. She can’t practice her pike Tsukahara vault or her punch front mount on the balance beam.
The yearning to compete has been overwhelming at times. On Saturday, it was almost unbearable.
“It’s killing me,” she said.
When Stafford opened the season with a fourth-place finish at the South Lakes Invitational, Brown waited the entire day to contribute. She watched her teammates perform on the balance beam, floor exercise and vault before finally getting her chance to perform.
Her comeback from a September stumble on floor exercise began with a fifth-place ribbon on the uneven bars. She flew confidently into a shootover and followed a giant series on the high bar with a flyaway dismount. It wasn’t anything close to what Brown is accustomed to, but the 9.3 she received from the judges was a positive place to start.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything,” Brown said. “Bars is good enough for me right now.”
By mid-January, Brown hopes to be back in the Indians’ all-around rotation. By then, Stafford will be thinking seriously about defending its Commonwealth District and Northwest Region championships. Even without their star in the rotation, the Indians fared pretty well on Saturday.
They surpassed their modest goal of scoring 105 points and were in contention for one of the trophies awarded to the top three teams.
“Send out a warning right now,” Brown said. “There’s been a fire lit under Stafford High School’s butt. I’ve never seen anything like it. We want everyone to see we’re not done.”
Despite an abysmal start on balance beam, the Indians scored 106.25 points. They broke the 110-point barrier en route to the team championship a year ago, but four key members of that squad Aimee Little, Allison Rankin, Annie Strickler and Jennifer Whited graduated last spring.
While Brown continues to strengthen her ankle, Stafford will depend primarily on sophomore Colleen Schwartz and junior Jennifer Little, who scored a 36.075 to finish fifth in the all-around at South Lakes. The Indians found out Saturday they also have a talented vaulter in senior Nai Bloomfield and important point scorers in senior Chanelle Noel and junior Tiffany Kerby.
If she can remain patient for another five weeks, Brown could return to her spot atop the all-around rotation in time for Winterfest on January 19.
At the moment, that is all the motivation she needs.
It has kept her from dwelling on the September afternoon at Richmond’s All-American Gymnastics Club when she tore two ankle ligaments attempting a roundoff-whipback-full twist tumbling pass.
“I thought I’d try something and it didn’t work,” Brown said. “I messed up the whipback part and the twist did it in for me. My ligaments are pretty much gone.
“They’ve healed as much as they can. The only other option is surgery,” she said. “My ankle is stronger, but it still slides out of place,” Brown said. “I’m just going to have to tape it and get used to the pain.”