A year after high jumping at home, Beaver’s Emma Pavelek worried another season was doomed

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Sunday, May 9, 2021 | 4:30 AM


Emma Pavelek had never been to a chiropractor before this past week and was skeptical one could help her painful foot. She’d been diagnosed with a sprain but after five weeks, her injury wasn’t getting any better.

So, what did she have to lose?

“He felt my foot for one minute tops,” said Pavelek, a star senior on Beaver’s track team and the reigning WPIAL high jump champion. “He said you have a bone dislocated in your foot. It’s out of place. He popped it back in and I jumped that day. It was bizarre.”

Four days after her visit, Pavelek matched a personal best in the high jump and won the event Saturday at the Baldwin Invitational by clearing 5 feet, 7 inches. The pain in her right foot that had Pavelek worried her senior season was doomed is pretty much gone.

“That five weeks felt like the longest five weeks of my life,” she said.

Pavelek loves to high jump. Want proof? Go back to March 2020, when the pandemic took away her entire junior season. A comedic video of Pavelek high jumping inside her house (as her parents hold the bar and she lands on a bed) went viral on TikTok.

It was either cry or laugh.

“I was devastated losing my junior season,” Pavelek said. “I wanted that to be my year for states. I couldn’t get out of my mind I’m losing a whole year, so I was like, let’s make light of it. Let’s make a funny little video.

“I said, ‘Mom and dad, come in here and hold this broomstick for me.’”

Now a year later, Pavelek worried another track season was about to be taken from her.

She’d led the Beaver girls basketball team to a 20-1 record and a WPIAL championship this winter, the first district title in team history. On her first day transitioning back to track — March 30 — she injured her foot.

Her coaches had suggested she run the 200 meters that day during a meet on Beaver’s home track. That’s not one of her usual events, but she embraced the race as a good workout.

“I put my foot down and I felt a pop,” Pavelek said. “I finished the race, got first, but as soon as I crossed the finish line I couldn’t walk. I went and got X-rays and they had me in a walking boot for two weeks. They said it was a really bad sprain. Five weeks later, I’m still not able to do anything on it.”

She tried to jump at the Beaver County Championships on April 17 and the Midwestern Athletic Conference meet 11 days later, but quit after clearing only 5 feet, 1 inch.

“We sent her to doctors, she’s gone to therapists and they couldn’t figure it out,” Beaver coach Jason Gallagher said. “They said it was just a sprain and she needed to rest.”

After visiting with a chiropractor, Pavelek accompanied her teammates Tuesday to Baldwin and high jumped that afternoon in the WPIAL team playoffs. Four days later, she returned Saturday for the Baldwin Invitational.

The quick recovery surprised even her.

“With the condition I was in, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do anything,” Pavelek said. “I couldn’t even run in to the mat to clear anything at all. I was really nervous and thought maybe this would be it for me.

“I owe it all to that chiropractor.”

Now feeling healthier, she’s refocused on adding another WPIAL title and capturing the state gold medal that eluded her as a sophomore. Pavelek won the 2019 WPIAL Class AA title with a 5-foot-6 jump and placed second at states at 5-7, which stands today as the school record.

After clearing 5-7 on Saturday, Pavelek fell just short on three attempts at 5-8. She plans to jump again at one more meet before the WPIAL individual championship May 19 at Slippery Rock University. Beaver now competes in Class AAA.

The state meet is May 28-29 at Shippensburg.

“She has some great expectations this year,” Gallagher said. “If she continues her focus, I can see big things coming for her.”

Yet, those two championship meets might mark the end of Pavelek’s competitive high jump career, unless she commits to a college that sees her as a two-sport athlete. To her track coach’s dismay, Pavelek’s priority is basketball. The 5-foot-8 guard was a 16-point scorer for the Bobcats and holds college scholarships in that sport.

Pavelek initially committed to Navy but since reconsidered. She’s now talking with both Division I and II schools.

“It wasn’t right for me,” she said. “I want to find somewhere that feels like home.”

Entering Saturday, no girl in the state had jumped higher than Pavelek, according to Milesplit.com statistics. Only Towanda’s Porschia Bennett and Mount Saint Joseph Academy’s Margaux Rawson have cleared 5-7.

A few girls in the WPIAL have cleared 5-3, including South Fayette’s Grace Howard, who took second Saturday at Baldwin.

“Now it’s time to get back in my groove,” Pavelek said. “I cleared this today a lot with just my leaping ability. I did not have good form but that’s understandable. I haven’t been able to practice for weeks and weeks.

“Hold the hips up a little longer, head back a little longer and hopefully I can get a new personal record.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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