By Kaileigh Krupp, '18
For generations, athletics has taught competitors to never give up. But for two senior athletes at Albion College, it wasn't just about not giving up, it was about making a difference.
Kyle Harvey and Erin Nelson, both of the class of '18, appeared to be on the way to solidifying their stature among the best in their respective sports, when injuries ended their athletic endeavors prematurely.
Harvey, a captain of the men's swimming and diving team, started the season swimming in the Collegiate Open Water Championship and was considered to be a contender for a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in the 400-yard individual medley. But those expectations ended in January when he dislocated his shoulder during the Britons training trip to Florida.
Nelson, a three-year starter in the frontcourt for the women's basketball team, was ready to achieve all-MIAA distinction while helping the Britons mount a challenge to the nationally ranked teams that eventually shared the league championship. However, Nelson's ability to compete was wrecked a few minutes into the first quarter of the opening game of the season when she tore an anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
Despite their injuries, both have continued to help their teams in any way possible.
Harvey has not missed a training session and has in some ways become like another member of the coaching staff on the pool deck. Nelson was just as visible on the bench for the women's basketball team, offering advice and encouragement wherever possible.
Both have also learned that sometimes recovering from their injuries has as much to do with mental healing as physical.
"To get to the first game, and say 'This is my team; this is my senior year; this is us,' and having it end so quickly, it hurts," Nelson said. "I don't have any pain anymore, but everyday I go to practice and I look down at my knee and I see it, and the whole wave of emotion comes back."
Though she wanted to return to the court badly, even getting opinions from several doctors and being fitted for a brace, she finally gave in to the realization that she needed to prepare for the demands of her assignment with the volleyball team as a graduate assistant athletic trainer at the University of Oklahoma this fall.
Harvey experiences similar emotions.
"(Knowing that this is the end of my career) there are some wounds that are still taking time to heal, if they ever do heal. What helped me get through this was talking to my family, coaches, and friends about how I could still benefit the team."
The bonds created through athletics run deep, bringing Britons together like family. And, for Harvey, that was best expressed when the swimming team competed at home for the final time this season.
"From the beginning several of them said 'We're going to do this for you; We are going to swim fast for you,'" Harvey said. "And then on senior day, Nick Smith swam the mile (one of my signature events) wearing a cap that said 'Harvey' on it, and it was amazing that he would do that for me."
While Harvey and Nelson have made lasting impacts on their teams, both also admit that their teams have done even more for them.
"Even though I'm not out there it's still my team, it's still my senior year, and I can't give up on them because they haven't given up on me," Nelson said.
An aspiring athletic trainer, Nelson will be a member of an allied health profession dedicated to helping patients return to physical activity whether they be daily living or athletic pursuits. She said the experience she's gained this year will be invaluable as she launches her career.
"There's going to be an athlete down the line that this happens to, and I want to be there for them" she said. "I will be able to use this for the better. I will be able to help someone else through their pain and that's the one thing that really motivates me every day."
Harvey offered advice to anyone who may be going through a similar situation, or to someone who may go through it in the future.
"As far as staying strong for your teammate, as much as it may suck, and as much as you may wish you can change it, you can't," he said. "So find the support when you need it. Try to stay positive. But most importantly, remember don't be a distraction, but instead be an inspiration."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaileigh Krupp, a senior at Albion, is an exercise science major from Mason, Mich.
Get more information on the teams by following @AlbionSwimming and @AlbionWBB on Twitter. General athletics news can be found @gobrits on Twitter and by following Albion College Athletics on Facebook