They say whenever you have an ACL injury, you are never the same.
You might not have the same jump you once had, along with excess pain and certainly cannot compete at a high level.
Emily Parks saw the odds and smiled.
She liked her chances after she suffered a grueling ACL tear her senior year at Lost River High School.
She knew she would compete again when just before she suffered her injury, she received a scholarship to run at Westmont College.
But the question was not if she would comeback, it was how successful she would be competing in a sport she was born into.
Parks was a phenom at Lost River.
She came away with a sweep of first-place honors in the 2015 OSAA track and field state championships.
She was placed along with names such as the renown Olympic gold medalist Dan O'Brien that excelled in the state meet.
Her junior year, she won the 400-meter run, 800, 300 intermediate hurdles and the 4x400 relay, a feat that the last Klamath Falls athlete to win all four events was O'Brien at Henley.
In a blink of an eye, she became one of the most accomplished athletes to ever run in the Klamath Basin, a sport she did not compete in sanctioned events until she was in high school. Before Lost River, she attended track events with her family in Ashland that her grandfather and high school track coach, Dan Duncan, took her to as early as the age of 4.
She won a total of eight state championships in track and field.
She won three consecutive championships in the 300 hurdles and back-to-back 400 state championships.
But a hustle rebound in basketball changed the course of her life for the next year when she came down with immense pain and discovered the worst.
She was able to train the summer of 2016 and attempted to compete in cross country at Westmont.
The young athlete from Malin came back sooner than she should have when she had a setback that fall.
She kept working.
Parks had a strong comeback her freshman season with the Warriors when she helped the school in the 4x800 and earned All-American honors by finishing in seventh place.
But she was not quite ready to compete in any hurdle events after she admitted she was fearful and reserved.
Knowing her resume in long-distance hurdle races, she tried the 400 hurdles at Westmont.
To her surprise, she qualified for the national competition in her very first race at Westmont this season.
From there, she progressed quickly.
Every race she competed in, her finish time improved.
Parks qualified also in the 4x400 relay in the NAIA national tournament.
Finally after her long rehabilitation, she arrived.
All the nerves, all the jitters had to be kept longer for the final in the 400 hurdles.
A hurricane advisory sparked a delay and changed her start time six different times.
The entire field was swarmed with rain but once the weather cleared, it was time.
The race was stolen by Southern-New Orleans runner Kimona Smikle, who was significantly ahead of everyone else.
The following seven spots were up for grabs.
Parks continued aggressively into the final 30 meters of the race but with the race so close, did not know which place she ended in.
If she had not stuck the top of her head out to reach the finish line, she likely would not have ended where she did, a bronze medal.
She ended in third place at 1:00.38, another personal record. Shantae Green, the fourth place spot, was at 1:00.39.
“That little bit that I leaned my head, it gave me third place,” Parks said. “When you are top three in the whole nation in something, it is just a great accomplishment.”
As strange as it sounds, Parks saw the positive in her injury.
She said she still feels aches at times but has not been impacted by her right leg when she competes.
“I know it may sound weird, but I am happy that I went through the ACL tear,” Parks said. “It helped me see who I really am. I used to be known as Emily, the girl who runs. They did not see my face and me for who I really am.”
“This is something I do that I enjoy. But in the end, I am a Christian and that is what I want to be known for. God said you cannot have your whole worth in what you achieve because it can change. I would not go back and change that reality.”
A conversation with her head coach, Russell Smelley, helped her prepare for this upcoming track and field season.
Smelley has been at Westmont since 1979 and has had his share of success at the college.
An NAIA National Coach the Year award, countless national championships, 16 conference titles, an NAIA cross country Hall of Fame inductee, were all reasons why Parks knew she wanted to attend Westmont.
“He told me that I thought things too much,” Parks said. “He told me that I have all the potential in the world but that I need to not over-think things. I came into the season with that mentality and it really helped me.”
Parks only focus at Westmont for her final two years will be to finish at the top of the 400 hurdles but has already surpassed her toughest hurdle so far in life.
At times, when she recovered in high school, she recalled depression that overtook her emotions.
“I feel 100 percent healthy and really good physically. I used to get swollen after some races but I feel that I have been better with the surgery,” Parks said. “My family has been a great strength for me and my little sister Rachel, who is going what I went through before, has really motivated me to be better.”
“In a race, you decide when you make a push. You sacrifice knowing you will be in pain, as well as the risk of failing. You risk going harder to lose it all or win it all. I am glad I have been an influence to others. I have heard from younger runners that I have helped inspire them. I am in a great place to have helped future runners and want to keep inspiring people who know me and see me run.”