The long road to a comeback came to an end last week for Oregon State gymnast Lena Greene.
An Achilles injury suffered two days before the first meet sidelined Greene for the entire 2020 season.
It was a tough setback for Greene, who had battled shin problems throughout her OSU career and was finally ready to go.
So when she raced down the runway and flew into her vault during OSU’s season-opening meet against Boise State on Jan. 15, it was a big moment in her career.
“Getting back out there was really fun,” Greene said. “Personally, just to get back into the swing of competing again felt really good. But also just to be out there with my team again because Oregon State gymnastics hasn’t been in Gill for the last 10 months or so, so it was really good just being there with everybody.
“Even if the fans weren’t able to be there, we kind of put it on ourselves to create our own energy and create our own atmosphere that we wanted and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that considering we’ve never had to create our own hype for ourselves before. So yeah, it was really exciting to be back out there. It felt like things were getting back to a little bit of normal.”
Greene said she had no nerves before the vault, just a boost of adrenaline adding to the excitement of the moment.
She got through the vault with a solid effort and the judges gave her a 9.800.
“I was really pleased with my performance just considering that we didn’t really get the same preseason training that we normally get. Also, just coming back from my Achilles injury, I was really pleased that I was actually ready to go by the first meet,” Greene said. “It felt good to be back out there.”
The shin problem forced Greene to redshirt as a freshman in 2017 and limited her during the next two seasons, although she was able to compete on vault. She scored a 9.900 and also had a 9.850 and a 9.825 on the event in 2018 and two 9.850s and a 9.813 at the NCAA Championships semifinals in 2019.
“I had an ongoing stress fracture that just wouldn’t heal from high school, I presume it was from my track days,” Greene said. “I took my whole freshman year off trying to heal and it didn’t heal. So then right before my sophomore year I had surgery to get a metal rod in the tibia and it still didn’t heal, So then I got a metal compression plate on top of the tibia and so I have both of those metal (pieces) in there.”
Expectations were high for Greene going into 2020. She was healthy and seemed poised to have an impact in all four events.
“I think that I was just really positive for what was going to come (in 2020) for me because my body has just felt the strongest it had been. I’ve had two other surgeries for my shins the past two years and this year before I didn’t have to go through any rehab in the preseason, so I finally got to do training well,” she said.
“That was really exciting to do the all-around at the Orange and Black exhibition, so yeah, I was excited.”
Greene ruptured her Achilles while running through tumbling skills on floor, which she said is a common injury for college gymnasts.
Former OSU gymnast Alyssa Minyard missed the 2018-19 season with the injury and current sophomore Jane Poniewaz also missed last season after suffering a ruptured Achilles a few months before Greene.
“It happens from a lot of overuse or someone like me or like Alyssa who have come back to floor after taking a couple years off and then they’re probably not used to the contact angle of takeoff during the floor,” Greene said.
“I hadn’t done floor because of my injuries I’ve had in my shins my whole college career, so (2020) was going to be my first year competing floor. It’s a little different going back to with my body not used to all the pounding and stuff like that.”
Greene spent the season and much of the offseason rehabilitating the injury and then preparing to return.
She was cleared to get back to full activity during the summer and was back to doing all her exercises and skills in September.
“It was just kind of like a slow and steady return to activities and I wasn’t trying to put any pressure on trying to be as ready as I normally am at the beginning of season, I was just trying to listen to my body and trust my own personal process,” she said.
Although all of the Beavers on the current team will get an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 situation, Greene is moving on from competition after the season and plans to pursue a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.
“For this year I think that my main focus is enjoying and celebrating every moment that I get with my team and with Beaver Nation, hopefully eventually,” Greene said. “Just honing in on my vault and becoming more and more confident during the season and just being there for my teammates and being the best leader I can be.”