LINCOLN — In her three years on campus, Nebraska thrower Carlie Pinkelman has battled a series of injuries and ailments. She broke her thumb. She contracted mono. She had a bout of appendicitis. Last year, before the Big Ten Conference meet, she twisted her ankle.
“It’s always been something,” she said Wednesday — four days after she won the shot put competition at the Holiday Inn Invitational in Lincoln.
None of those setbacks was quite as puzzling — or scary — as the one she faced at a late October supper, while she listened to friend and fellow Husker thrower, Annie Jackson, tell a story.
Jackson thought Pinkelman was laughing, which was strange, because the story wasn’t supposed to be funny. But Pinkelman wasn’t laughing. She was having a seizure. She blacked out and started to fall backward. Jackson caught her.
“Like I just dozed off,” said Pinkelman, who can’t remember the seizure, but manages a smile at how strange it must have seemed. “But when I woke up, I had the worst headache.”
The roommates called Dr. Lonnie Albers — NU’s associate athletic director of athletic medicine. Because she’d never had a seizure, Pinkelman tried, in that moment, to shrug it off. I’m fine, she told Albers.
Pinkelman remembers Albers telling her: Either you go to the hospital with Annie, or you’ll go there in an ambulance. Pinkelman chose the first option.
Nearly three months later, Pinkelman hasn’t had a second seizure. She’s on medicine and sees a neurologist. She’s won her first title of the year with a throw of 49 feet, 14 inches. She’ll look to win her second in Saturday’s Adidas Classic. And NU coach Carrie Lane said Pinkelman had a kind of training this winter that can set her up for more wins.
“She’s been more consistent in her training,” Lane said. “Even with the seizure. Her technique has been more consistent. She’s going to start to see a payoff.”
This despite the sophomore from Cozad taking a week off after the seizure, then slowly returning to her workout regimen as she acclimated to seizure medication. Because she couldn’t initially drive after the seizure, teammates had to help Pinkelman get to and from practice.
It helps, Lane said, that the Husker women throwers have clicked so well in the last year in practice. Besides Pinkelman and Jackson, Veronica Grizzle, Tristen Sharp and outdoor discus All-American Morgan Wilken have created an atmosphere where “they’re starting to work off of each other,” she said.
“They’re different personalities and different technique, but as a group, they’re focused on one agenda,” Lane said. “And when you have that, stuff starts really happening.”
Pinkelman also has a personal coach — her older brother Luke, a three-time All-American and two-time conference champion who graduated from Nebraska last year. Like Carlie, Luke spins as he throws the shot — others use a glide step — so the siblings can watch and critique each other’s form. Carlie said she and Luke worked together over break at Cozad High School. Luke Pinkelman, competing as an individual, also won the Holiday Inn crown last Saturday.
“I’m never going to fill his shoes, what he’s done here,” Carlie Pinkelman said. “He’s a legend thrower here. He’s made his name here. I’m just grateful I got a chance to come here.”
And grateful she’s back throwing — and winning.
“It was a sense of relief,” she said. “I had more adversity — but I was strong enough to get through it.”
»Notes: Other teams competing Saturday in the Adidas Classic are Air Force, Iowa, Oral Roberts and Wichita State. The meet starts at noon. ... Some Huskers will also compete in the Nebraska Wesleyan University Invitational Friday, which begins at 11:30 a.m. ... Nebraska has just three athletes currently ranked in the top 10 of their events nationally, all on the men’s side: James White (first in high jump), Janis Leitis (fourth in long jump) and Tommy Brinn (eighth in the 800 meters). White and Leitis are recent transfers.
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