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Meet Lexi Rust vBy James D. Cimburek On a July evening, the Yankton Flames U-12 boys’ soccer club was going through drills, preparing for the final tournament of the summer. The players go through their paces, working on ball-handling, conditioning and other aspects to be ready for one more weekend of matches. Two coaches were directing them. One is a parent of one of the players, a common occurrence in youth sports. The other is a girl, just two years older than the players and with no familial ties to any of the players. Meet Lexi Rust. The sophomore-to-be at Yankton High School has spent the better part of a year helping Kary Gregoire coach the team of one of his sons. At this point, he considers her a co-head coach. “Basically she’s taken it over,” he said. “She does quite a bit on her own.” ‘Soccer Has Been My Life’ Rust first began playing soccer at the age of 4. By the age of 9, she was on her first club team. “Soccer has been my life, my passion,” she said. “Basically my whole life has been soccer, lifting and running for conditioning.” Besides soccer, Rust has been into running. She had been a part of Yankton’s cross country team during middle school, even competing for the Gazelles during the state meet in 2016. That all changed on Dec. 16, 2016. Rust was playing with the Yankton Blaze, a boys’ soccer club in her 8vHERVOICEvSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 age group, during an indoor tournament. “It was an important game. It decided if we got into the championship or not,” Rust said. “Another player and I were going for the ball, our legs got caught up and my knee caved. “I knew it was an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament tear) right away.” Rust had seen some of Yankton’s older soccer players — like Becca Moser and Jenae Osborn — go through ACL injuries. In fact, Rust borrowed an ice treatment device from Moser when she returned from the tournament on the day of the injury. The injury to her left knee, though, was more severe than expected. Besides the torn ACL, she tore the medial and lateral meniscus, partially tore the medial patella femoral ligament and sprained her medial collateral ligament (MCL). “It was definitely tough to hear. I thought it would be a simple ACL,” Rust said. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning. In July, her knee buckled again due to a medial meniscus injury. A few months later it happened again, this time resulting in cartilage damage to the tibia. Rust continued to work through the rehab process with each. By this past June, she was went in for another MRI due to pain. At the time, the doctor suggested the pain could just be joint calcification and treated her with lidocaine. “They told me, ‘Go out, run, play soccer, do whatever and see if it hurts. If it still hurt still, it was the joint, but if it didn’t, it was the calcification,’” she said. “So I got home and went for a two-and-a-half mile run. I was feeling great, everything was going great. I had this nice runner’s high and was having the time of my life. “In the middle of my run, my mom calls me.”

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