Not long ago, Fort Hays State’s Madison Wolf was concerned she might never return to form as one of the best javelin throwers in NCAA Division II.
Wolf was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and take a medical redshirt for 2017 after tearing a ligament in her elbow late in her junior season.
“I had a lot of trouble getting it straight,” Wolf said. “For six months, I was extremely worried it wasn’t going to be anywhere near where I was. Any little thing would make it sore and bother it.”
Two years after suffering the injury that threatened to derail her career, the senior stood atop the podium as the D-II national javelin champion this past Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
“It was a little bit emotional because I have been through a lot of injuries and I’ve meant to win that title for a while now,” Wolf said. “So when I got it, it was an awesome feeling. It’s hard to describe because it’s something that I wanted for a long time.”
The Bennington native won the title with her second toss of 161 feet, 1 inch (49.11 meters). Wolf, a four-time All-American, is the seventh NCAA champion for the FHSU women’s program and its first outdoor champion since Janet Eck won the high jump in 1999.
“It was a decent throw, but typically 50s (meters) wins it,” Wolf said. “I’d kind of been dealing with an ankle injury. I think my first throw I was kind of tentative because I knew that it was going to hurt.
“I think if someone would have bested my mark I probably would have bested them back because that’s what I’m usually pretty decent at it.”
Wolf suffered the elbow injury in the MIAA meet during her junior season but still competed in the national meet that year, earning sixth place.
“I’m a competitor so I really wanted to not miss nationals,” she said. “I really knew I had a chance at All-American all four years.
“I went into nationals my junior year knowing I was only going to have one throw. I posted my second best throw ever with no ligament there. I finally got into the doctor in August after competing in May and he said (the ligament) was gone and I’d have to have a full reconstruction.”
Wolf had surgery 10 days later and an 11-month recovery ensued.
“Once we started integrating throwing, like softballs, into my therapy I knew that I still had a good arm,” she said. “It was just never a for sure thing until I got back competing.
“I really don’t think I am as good as I was. But I was still good enough. It wasn’t like a drastic change.”
Wolf didn’t pick up the sport until her senior year, but promptly won a state title at Bennington with a throw of 137-9. She initially planned to walk-on to FHSU for volleyball before receiving interest for javelin.
“I didn’t even ever have plans of doing javelin,” she said. “When I won it after doing it just a season my senior year, I knew that was kind of what I was meant to do.”
Wolf said she feels blessed to end her career with a national championship.
“I think that’s why I was so emotional when I knew I had won, because I knew it was done for me,” said Wolf, who is majoring in medical management and will attend another year of graduate school at FHSU. “I’m happy to be done because javelin’s really hard on the body, but at the same time, I’ve done sports all throughout my life, so there’s going to be a big part of what I’ve always done missing. So that’ll be tough.”
Wolf returned to Bennington Tuesday and was appreciative of the hometown greeting she received.
“I went into the little place we have lunch and I was getting congrats from everyone,” she said. “Everyone in my hometown knows and it’s cool because they’re all very supportive and proud of what I’ve accomplished.”