MINOOKA — Injuring a knee is never a good thing. When you’re an all-state high jumper, though, it’s one’s worst nightmare.
That happened to Minooka’s Kurtis Zumbhalen, who completely tore his meniscus playing backyard football with his family in the fall. The senior was fortunate it wasn’t his ACL, otherwise he would have missed the entire season, his last one at the high school level.
“I went up for an interception to win the game, and I just heard a pop,” Zumbhalen said of the injury. “I couldn’t stand on it, so I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know what had happened. I had just hoped it wasn’t bad.”
When Zumbaheln went to the hospital, he was fearing the worst. If it was anything else but his ACL, he’d have a chance to come back again for the Indians. Fortunately, it was only a torn meniscus, with a recovery time of four to six months.
“When the doctor checked my ACL and said it was there, that was a huge relief,” Zumbahlen said. “After I went in for X-rays, they found it to be a torn meniscus, which I didn’t know what that entailed.”
“I’m not sure I can say exactly what I said, but I was not happy,” Minooka head coach Nick Lundin said when he heard the news about his returning high jumper. “My main concern though was that it was being treated properly and he was doing everything necessary to get healthy.”
What followed was months of physical therapy, which was some of the most grueling conditioning the senior has ever gone through.
“It was tough, but it was also very good,” he said. “I went to ATI in Minooka, and after going there it’s inspired me to become a physical therapist.
“It was a win-lose situation, because I found out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but I still had a messed up knee.”
When the track season rolled around, Zumbhalen wasn’t cleared to compete in the first indoor track meet at Thornwood High School. However, by the time the next event came around, the high jumper was cleared to go, testing out his healed up leg for the first time in more than six months.
“The doctor gave me a set date to when I could come back, and our first meet was before that,” Zumbhalen said. “That second meet, though, was past the date. My knee felt better, and I felt ready to go.”
Showing absolutely no affects from having surgery just six months ago, Zumbhalen went out and jumped 6-feet, 6-inches, which was 1-inch short of his personal record of 6 feet, 7 inches, which he jumped at the state meet last year at Eastern Illinois in Charleston. The 6-6 just showed everyone that Zumbhalen was back and meant business.
“I don’t know if was the adrenaline kicking in or what, but I jumped pretty good,” Zumbhalen said. “The jump was giving me high hopes for the season, but so far it’s been pretty goofy. I couldn’t believe I had jumped 6-6, but now it’s coming back to catch me.”
“When he jumped 6-6 in his first meet back, I was relieved and now feel that he can improve on his ninth-place finish at state from last season,” Lundin added.
Although Zumbhalen has cooled off since his hot start, the senior still finds himself in a place to make history and help guide the Indians to their first-ever state championship in boys track and field.
“Our relays, sprinters, jumps and throwers are all really good and talented this year,” Zumbhalen said. “So we’re hoping to make it down again this year.”