Belmont senior Britni Spaulding watches action against Gilford on Dec. 22. The game was the first for Spaulding since suffering a severe ankle injury in May. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 26, 2011BELMONT – If there's one thing you can say about Britni Spaulding, it's that the Belmont High School senior never gives up.
A fluke injury during an AAU basketball game in May has greatly altered the three-sport athlete's senior campaign, as she was forced to just sit and watch from the sidelines for the last seven months before finally appearing in her first game of the season against Gilford on Dec. 22.
"It was a tournament at Colby Sawyer and I went up for a jump shot and came down on my ankle," recalled Spaulding of the May injury. "I ended up turning both sides and they took me to the emergency room. They thought it was broken but they just ended up saying it was a bad sprain. I went to go see a doctor about a month later and I got an MRI done because he didn't really know what was going on."
Spaulding was put in a boot for about four weeks before being fitted for a cast. That forced her to miss the stretch run of the Red Raiders softball season, and she also had to sit and watch from the bench as Belmont's soccer team made an impressive run to the quarterfinals.
"About halfway through the (soccer) season, I asked if I could be back for the end of the year and tournament, but the doctor told me if you want to play basketball, it's probably a bad idea," she said. "So I decided I'd still be a part of the team, stick to the sidelines and cheer my teammates on while focusing for basketball season."
But with her ankle still hurting as preseason began last month, Spaulding made a trip to an ankle specialist to see what the next step might be.
"I got some pretty bad news that night," said recalled. "He said I might need surgery. So I had three options: not do anything for three months and let it heal, take a cortisone shot, or surgery. I decided on the cortisone shot (on Dec. 1) because I want to get out there and play. It's my senior season, I want to try and play basketball in college."
Spaulding's been practicing with the team for the past few weeks, though she makes sure to take it easy if the pain starts causing problems on the court.
"It's hard because as much as I want to, with my health I need to be careful," she said. "I have to relax and be patient because it's really hard to watch your team, especially when you feel like you could make a difference out there.
"But the pain isn't too bad right now," she continued. "I've just tried to slowly get into it. But I really want to make sure I'm back and playing for the tournament. I've just tried to have my mindset ready to keep pushing and make it back. I want this year, I'm very determined."
She's certainly sick of sitting back and watching, as the fall soccer season proved to be quite a long one. But Belmont soccer coach Amy Dutton praised Spaulding's commitment to the team despite her injury, and the senior began to see some of the benefits of watching from the outside.
"Sitting there, a lot builds up," she admitted."But I get to see a lot that the other players don't get to see, kind of like the coaches side of it. It's a little frustrating because I feel like I can't help the team like I want to. But I try and be patient through it. I learned a lot about dealing with the team and what everyone needs to do to be successful during soccer season.
"My friends supported me through all of it so it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be," she said. "Coach Dutton supported me through the whole thing, it was great to have that support. Team feeds were fun, the girls had such great chemistry that it was a lot of fun to be around. I'm glad I got to be a part of that run."
But now Spaulding is focused on helping Belmont make a deep postseason run, as the Red Raiders have a veteran squad hoping to put together a successful final season.
"I honestly think we can make the Final Four…that's my goal," she explained. "I've been dreaming about that since last year. Last year was kind of a building year for us, but coming into this year with six seniors, I feel like we should be able to pick those underclassmen up and we have the talent and chemistry to go far. I have so much energy balled up, it would just be nice to get that out and be able to play on a regular basis."
And while she's been through a lot since that tough day in May, Spaulding's commitment and never quit attitude has her still hopeful for the future. She hopes to make it a senior year to remember.