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WHIZ KID OF THE WEEK: Sasha Smallwood
Pikesville's Smallwood recovers quickly from knee surgery and earns college scholarship.
By Dan Levin | Email the author | 6:00am
Whiz Kid's Name: Sasha Smallwood
Whiz Kid's School: Pikesville High School
Whiz Kid's Accomplishment: Despite knee injury, pole vaulter quickly recovers from surgery and still earns a full college scholarship.
Whiz Kid's Key to Awesomeness: She keeps a positive attitude, continues competing, and despite a setback, plans to work her way back to the top.
There is never a good time for a sports injury, but to get one in your senior year of high school, with recruiters all around, is probably the worst time for a major injury.
And to recover quickly enough to compete again and get a full athletic scholarship that same year is almost unheard of.
But that’s what happened to Pikesville High School's pole vaulter and cheerleader Sasha Smallwood.
This autumn, the senior severely injured her knee, rupturing one ligament and tearing another during a cheering accident.
Smallwood has been part of the Pikesville track and field team since her freshman year and developed into arguably the state’s top pole vaulter. She currently holds the state public school Class 1A record for the pole vault (11 feet, one inch), set in 2009.
With a her collegiate career looming, Smallwood had to keep the recruiters interested while she tried to recover.
It usually takes six to nine months to recover from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, like the one Smallwood experienced.
But just about three months after her surgery on Oct 29, Smallwood was back on the track and competing despite not being completely healthy. Her recovery was a pleasant surprise to Smallwood and others in the Pikesville program.
She made it back in time to compete in the Baltimore County indoor track championship earlier this season, and she came in third place.
Smallwood then got first in the region meet in Feb. 7 , but knee problems bothered her in the Class 1A state meet on Feb. 22.
She did not place due to some minor knee problems, but Smallwood was happy just to be out there. “It didn't go like I wanted it to but I was grateful to just run and take off,” Smallwood said. “I sort of hyperextended my knee so I really had to ice and rest after, but it wasn't a big deal.”
Smallwood contined talking to recruiters during her recovery time. Schools such as Morgan State, Robert Morris, Howard, Rutgers and Cornell all contacted Smallwood about joining them.
But Smallwood decided to pole vault for Bethune-Cookman University in Florida starting in the fall. “It has a small program, but they just got a new coach with a great vision,” Smallwood said. “I loved the team when I visited, and I could see myself progressing well. I can't wait to go and be a part of the school's historical legacy.”
Bethune-Cookman coach Donald Cooper gave Smallwood a full scholarship to the school, handing her that scholarship while she was still recovering from her knee injury. “I was in total shock,” Smallwood said. “I was offered the full ride before I could even run yet. For the coaches to have that much faith in me made me fight even harder to get well. It is really a dream come true.”
Part of this faith the coaches had in her probably come from Smallwood’s track record over the last few years.
Smallwood will continue her recovery as the outdoor track season approaches and hopes to repeat as the state champion outdoors before heading off to Bethune-Cookman in the fall.