Back from the Brink

UnCommon Ground - Back from the Brink

Clemmer battles a Hiram defender for position in a 2009 match. She finished the year second on the team in scoring while helping Denison to its 13th NCAA Division III Tournament appearance.

During a regular season soccer game her Freshman year, Jen Clemmer ‘11 had what could have been a career-ending injury. “I just remember I had the ball, and I was trying to beat a girl on the outside,” says Clemmer. “I fell and heard a pop. And that’s never good.”

A high school track and soccer state champion, Clemmer came to Denison looking for a team that was competitive within its conference. She found that with the Big Red, starting 13 games before tearing her ACL and meniscus. Her season came to an abrupt end.

It could have been an opportune moment to hang up her cleats and become a spectator–but Clemmer was not ready to end her playing days. “I can’t imagine my life without soccer,” she says, “and going out halfway through freshman year was not something I wanted to do. I’d seen people come back from an ACL tear before, and I knew I could get back to where I was.”

The now-routine surgery took place a month later, and after almost a full year of rehab, Clemmer began to feel like her pre-injury self. She had to wear a cumbersome brace during her sophomore season, but was able to play in 19 games. That spring she took on a heavy regimen of strength training and prevention exercises with Mark Watts, Denison’s speed and strength coach.

It was only after this extra training that she felt back to 100 percent, and during her junior season in 2009, Clemmer started all 22 games, scored 10 goals, and was named to the North Coast Athletic Conference First Team. She also was elected co-captain for her upcoming senior season.

“It wasn’t an easy road,” says Head Coach Gail Murphy. “There were plenty of tears and doubts, but she fought through it and stayed the course. People see a Jen Clemmer now who’s even faster, fitter, and stronger than before her injury; but most people never saw the countless hours she spent alone in the gym kicking a ball against the wall or running through an agility ladder.”

Her knee is completely different than it was three years ago, and in a way, Clemmer has tried to put the injury behind her, focusing instead on the playing time ahead. “While injured, I spent a bunch of time watching practice and games. I know what it’s like not to be able to play, so going into my senior year, I am ready to take advantage of every moment I have left.”

Published June 2010