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Photos courtesy of Warrior Dash Rust did not take the call at the time. When she got home, her mom told her the bad news. The knee was again injured. “They said to stop whatever you’re doing and get off your feet,” Rust said, recalling the phone conversation with her mother, Lori. “I went from this really good runner’s high to this really low point, and I started crying.” Of course, the teen didn’t go directly to the couch. “She still said, ‘The lidocaine’s in my knee. I’m still going to shoot on net, mom,’” Lori said. At this point, the process of healing her knee continues. Lexi wears a special brace, and her family is pursuing potential options to help the knee heal. “She is too young for a knee replacement,” Lori said. “Most knee replacements last only 20 years and most second knee replacements don’t take as well.” Coach Rust When she first suffered the knee injury, Lexi was focused on recovery. But her mother knew she would need something to fill the gap left by not playing soccer. “My mom realized that there are going to be mental and emotional effects, too. Soccer’s been my life, and it’s part of who I am,” Lexi said. “To go from soccer all the time to no soccer, it was definitely going to be a change that I was not ready for.” Lori talked with Gregoire about the possibility of having Lexi help out. “It was a pretty seamless transition,” Lexi said. “Kary also coaches the Flames, and their practices were right before our practices. I still had practices on the same days. I still went to the same tournaments. It was pretty smooth.” Lexi made her tournament coaching debut just a week after her first knee surgery. “It was painful. I’d be on my feet all day,” Lexi said. “But it would have hurt a lot more to have not been coaching, to have been doing nothing.” Both sides were unsure about the arrangement at first. “I was really nervous at first, because I didn’t know how they were going to respond to me being only a couple of years older than them,” Lexi said. “At the beginning, I kinda stood back, watched how Kary coached, helped out if he needed help. “As I got more comfortable around the boys and around Kary, I started to use my voice.” For the players, there was an adjustment period as well. “Before, they would look at me when she said something,” Gregoire said. “Now they know to do what she says.” From helping out, Lexi has progressed to planning practices for the team and coaching them in tournaments. When Gregoire is not available to be on the sidelines, another parent has been with Lexi on the sidelines for matches. As a coach, Lexi has a “laid-back” approach, according to Gregoire. “She doesn’t get excited about too much. She never yells at the boys,” he said. “You can tell she likes to be around it.” Earlier this summer, Lexi even got the traditional “coach” treatment of getting doused with water after a tournament victory. “It was the Norfolk tournament, and we had just won,” she said. “One of those boys started it, and they all dumped water on me. “It’s a lot of fun when they feel comfortable enough to join in like that.” Moving Forward Lexi has done her best not to let the knee injuries slow her down, even following through on a decision to compete in a “Warrior Dash” obstacle course race that she signed up for with friend Aly Fedde before the second knee injury. She did not run the course due to her injury, but she did handle the obstacles, Lori said. “Lexi did jump over the fire and climb the walls because the adrenaline masked the knee pain,” she said. “It was so worth it. They met some great people from Gretna, Lincoln, Omaha and McCook, Nebraska. The hills and trees along the trails were breath-taking, and everyone there was in a great mood and covered with mud.” She plans to continue her coaching career as she completes high school, and possibly college, but is currently looking at a career in the medical field. Until then, though, she plans to remain on the sidelines. “I know I could sit around and get pretty down about all this knee stuff,” she said. “But I go to practice, and they’re teasing me and it’s light-hearted, and it just kinda brightens my day.” n HERVOICEvSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018v9

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