As she laced up her shoes for her first-ever college race in September 2012, Danica Wyson had feelings of inadequacy.
Wyson, a linguistics major from Laguna Niguel, Calif., was not convinced the success she had enjoyed on her high school cross country and track and field teams would carry over into her college career.
Wyson was concerned that as a new freshman she would not be able to keep up with some of her fellow competitors. Her first race took her to a small meet in Reno, Nev. As the race began, she was pleasantly surprised to not only find herself keeping up with her teammates and competitors but edging her way closer and closer to the front of the pack.
“I ended up getting second for the BYU team and third in the meet, so I was like, ‘Okay, I can do this,'” Wyson said. “It was a good confidence booster that I wasn’t going to be hanging on to the back the whole time, because that’s what I was expecting.”
Not long after that race, Wyson began to feel pains in her shin stemming from an injury she had sustained in high school. That October she made a tough decision to step back from the team in order to fully recover. Determined to not let this injury break her spirit, Wyson made a choice to continue to be a part of the team while she worked toward a full recovery — something that, for many athletes, can be hard to do.
Wyson continues to remain positive as she builds back her strength. Due to some setbacks she experienced this summer from her injury, she is redshirting the current cross country season.
“I’m trying to focus on the good mentally and get excited to race again,” Wyson said. “Something that my coach keeps reminding me of is that, ‘We have time,’ and, ‘You can take it slow.’ So right now I’m not doing any speed. I’m just doing easy mileage and building that up slowly so I have a base. I’ve added in some training stuff like hills but just really slow moving it up. I just have to remember to keep my perspective on the long term and make sure that I’m not going to get hurt so I can keep improving and building up my mileage so I can be good.”
Wyson can be found at all of the team’s practices helping in whatever way she can, from timing runs to simply encouraging her teammates. She refuses to shut herself off from the team just because she is still rehabilitating.
“Her willingness to put herself in a position of service has been a rather remarkable experience for her and for myself and for her teammates,” said cross country coach Patrick Shane. “It’s not really common for athletes that are hurt to do that — in fact, it’s unusual. They tend to withdraw, and sometimes you can really see a dropoff in interaction with teammates and their coaches.”
Wyson continues to cheer on her teammates at practices and local meets despite her injury and desire to get back on the track.
“(The most impressive thing about how she’s handled her injury) is the fact that she’s still going for it even though she’s been out for so long,” said Brenna Wyson, Wyson’s younger sister. “She’s so supportive of her teammates even though she’s kind of jealous that they can run. She just supports them all the way and cheers for them so hard.”
Wyson began running during her freshman year of high school and was a frontrunner for both the track and field and cross country teams at Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo, Calif. As she began her sophomore cross country season, Wyson suffered a stress fracture in her foot. She did not take the appropriate time to recover from the injury because her team was counting on her talent – something she says she has learned from this time around.
Going forward, Wyson will be met with high expectations. She currently holds the 1600m and 3200m records for Aliso Niguel High School and the prep South Coast League Finals 3200m record. She was twice named All-County in both track and field and cross country and also named second-team All-State.
Her teammates and coaches have been important in helping her maintain a patient and positive attitude throughout the recovery process.
“Something that (Coach Shane) and my teammates will always say about situations like this is, ‘Fitness goes away, but talent doesn’t. Talent will always be there; you just have to get back down to that fitness level and you’ll have it back,'” Wyson said. “Teammates of mine have come to me and told me, ‘I don’t think you’re done. I think you have something left in you.'”
Wyson has big dreams for her future in running — dreams that are echoed and fully supported by her coaches.
“What I’d like to see is for her to realize her dream of finding out how good she can be, and you do that by working hard day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and again it comes down to being patient and believing in yourself …” Shane said. “What I want her to do is be able to stay healthy and to realize her dream, which is to find success and her potential, not only in athletics, but certainly academically, socially and spiritually. … Athletics is just part of that and not even the most important.”