There was never an ounce of doubt in Lexi Edwards’ mind.
Not when she lost her air awareness on a vault in warm ups. Not when she twisted in the air and came down on a knee that gave way. Not when doctors told her she’d suffered a knee joint dislocation and torn her ACL, PCL, MCL and both menisci.
Not even when they told her how unique her injury was, and that she was facing nine months to a year of recovery, an arduous process that would take up her senior year at Monacan high school and perhaps threaten her collegiate aspirations at Ohio State.
Edwards never thought of quitting as an option, and on Monday, she'll be honored as the HCA Virginia Sports Medicine female comeback athlete of the year at the annual Times-Dispatch/Sports Backers Scholar-Athlete banquet.
“I just thought I’d have to change a few things,” Edwards said. “But it was all about working around it, not saying, ‘I can’t do it.’”
Almost a year after the second of two staged surgeries, Edwards, a junior Olympic national team member in 2016 and level 10 gymnast, indicated she is close to 100%.
The boys comeback player of the year is Cosby football and lacrosse player Jacob Stamm, who overcame two major injuries in his high school career.
The second was when he broke his fibula in the first half of his final regular season football game, but continued to play the remainder of the game, then made a full recovery in time for lacrosse season.
In their application essays, both winners cited the support they received from family, friends, coaches and trainers.
“I’ve had a lot of support. The small things they helped me out a lot with, and in the gym there was encouragement,” Edwards said. “It took everyone I surround myself with.”
Laura Toro, Edwards’ assistant head coach at Virginia International Gymnastics, called Edwards a “one-in-a-million kid.”
“We knew she’d come back,” Toro said. “It’s always the unknown with such a severe injury, but her mindset was always, ‘I’m going to be back in the gym, I’m going to do my physical therapy, I’m going to come back just as strong as I was before.’”
Edwards committed full-force to her recovery, arriving at the clinic at 5:30 a.m. on school days and attending physical therapy three times a week.
Her physician, Michelle Tyler, said Edwards has a “unique disposition” common among elite athletes that allowed her to persevere through what Tyler called a “devastating” knee injury.
“It’s her maturity and her ability to focus on what she needs to do to achieve her dream,” Tyler said. “To her, there was never a no. It was never going to be an end to her career. It was, ‘OK, so I have this bad injury. What do I need to do to get back?’”
Typically, dislocations involve the patella or kneecap. But in Edwards' case, the knee joint, where the tibia and femur meet, was dislocated, resulting in three ligament and two menisci tears.
“Pretty much all of it,” Edwards said, with a note of defiant sarcasm. “My LCL hung in there though.”
Tyler said in 30 years of practicing sports medicine, she can count on one hand the number of true knee dislocations she’s seen.
But the severity of the situation never deterred Edwards.
She was already verbally committed to attend Ohio State on an athletic scholarship before the injury. The Buckeyes maintained her scholarship throughout her recovery, which is not always the case in instances of severe injury.
Their confidence, Edwards said, helped her maintain positivity and belief.
“That meant everything, honestly. … They were behind me 100% and I was very grateful,” she said. “My coach told me that when I get there, their trainers and doctors will push that extra mile to get me where I need to be.”
Tyler and Toro both said they will watch Edwards at Ohio State and beyond with immense pride in everything she’s accomplished. As Edwards has returned to form, Tyler watches videos of her training and still can’t believe what she’s seeing.
“She’s one of those people where if you give her a goal she’s not just going to meet it, she’s going to exceed it. I’m lucky, I feel blessed to have worked with her,” Tyler said.
“To watch her do the vault … it’s a beautiful thing.”