Longhorns Olympic Trials spotlight: Maren Taylor
June 15, 2012
Ben Blevins, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- Junior Maren Taylor will dive at Olympic Trials next week and it will be the first time she has been in a competition since suffering an elbow injury at the 2011 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships in Austin.
Taylor entered the 2011 NCAA Championships with a lower back injury suffered prior to the Big 12 Championships a couple of weeks earlier. She had planned on taking a month off of training to recover from it after NCAA's, but on the final day she dislocated her right elbow in the finals of the platform event.
"It was the second time that I had done that," Taylor said. "As soon as it happened I knew what was happening. I knew what the injury was. I knew it was going to be a long recovery."
Instead of taking a month off, Taylor would end up being out for five months. She spent the entire summer in Austin rehabbing her elbow. The first time she dislocated her elbow was when she was 14 years old. At that time she was in gymnastics and it took her six weeks to come back and practice. She knew what to expect but wanted to take a little more time to allow her back to heal as well.
"In the early stages, I thought it was a good thing because it was helping my back heal, but it ended up being a drawn out process," said Taylor. "During that time I was pretty down because the doctors were saying things like I might not want to dive again or a second time dislocation causes high risk so during that time it was hard because I really did not know what was happening."
During the process, Taylor had a strong support staff around her while she recovered on campus at UT. Not only did she receive great care from the Texas sports medicine staff, but her diving teammates were in town training for summer competitions as well.
"The other divers that were here and my coach (Matt Scoggin) were amazing," said Taylor. "I had Tina (Bonci, sports medicine) who was by my side the whole process. It was hard being away from my family. I wasn't diving so I would have liked to spend the time with them but I still needed to be here. The training room staff was great though. They were like my best friends over the summer."
In late August, Taylor was cleared by doctors to get back on the boards and start diving again. However, her back injury resurfaced after two weeks and she would end up missing the entire fall. She and Scoggin determined it was best to continue to rehab her elbow while also trying to get her back to 100 percent.
"They never decided for sure what was wrong with my back," said Taylor. "They think I have a condition where there is the part in your spine that butterflies and the two joints run together in the lower left side of my back. I did a lot of strengthening the muscles and worked with a chiropractor."
Back injuries are common among divers with the twists, turns and summersaults they do. Although the recovery process was a long one for Taylor, she has been back training for six months and is back to full strength. Her return to diving came when the team started winter break training in the middle of December.
"I finally got back on the boards, but this time my coach was like we need to take it really slow," Taylor said. "I inched along for three months. In December, January, and February, I just did the basics. I only dove for about 20-30 minutes a day. That was frustrating but finally after the season was over in March, I started doing my dives again which was really exciting."
For the past three months Taylor has been training in full. Because she missed the entire season she is able to redshirt and will return next season for her junior year of eligibility. Her training is where it was before she suffered the injury.
"I feel good," Taylor said. "It did not take long for me to get the feel of everything. I am a little nervous because trials are fast approaching and I wish I had more time. Practice is going well."
Taylor likes where she is right now and over the last few weeks has been trying to perfect some of the dives in her rotation. Scoggin feels she is just about there.
"Our two areas of concern, her lower back and elbow, are so strong now," Scoggin said. "She's gaining confidence. I've seen more smiles out of her and she is getting a handle on her dives."
Although she has gone through her dives thousands of times in practice, Olympic Trials will still be her first competition since she dislocated her elbow more than a year ago. There is no way to duplicate the feeling one feels at an actual meet, but Taylor has been put through some simulations in practice by Scoggin.
"We've had some mock meets in practice where I call her name out and call her dive out and blow the whistle to make it feel more like the trials," Scoggin said. "One of the things that she is very gifted with is that in crunch time, in the moment of truth, she has the ability to focus on what counts, keep it simple, and hit the dive. If we have her prepared physically and get her feeling good about her dives, I feel really good about her up on the board mentally."
Taylor appreciates the meet simulations and is just excited to be diving again, however she does expect to have some nerves in her first meet in over one year. She will just compete in the 3-meter competition and hopes to final, which is making the top 12.
"It is a completely different feeling," Taylor said. "You have so much more adrenaline, so I just need to calm down. I have to step back a little bit. If I go too fast, walk too fast, or go with too much strength; I am going to mess everything up. And of course, there are the nerves. You get nervous by seeing all the other people and the judges, so you have to remind yourself not to get distracted. In practice you are joking around with your friends."