Perseverance Pays Off For Madison Wolf

June 18, 2014

When Madison Wolf became an NCAA Division II All-American this year in the Javelin for Fort Hays State University few realized how impressive an accomplishment it truly was and why. That’s because the former Bennington High School standout never made a very big deal over the obstacles she had to overcome on her way to establishing herself as one of the top collegiate throwers in the nation. The reality though is that her improbable journey to becoming an All-American was anything but easy.
At the age of 2½ , she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. What that meant is that the precocious little girl would spend her childhood dealing with significant pain and swelling in her joints. Growing up with the disease was not easy, but Madison never gave much thought to the pain and discomfort. Throughout her childhood the disease would go into remission but occasional flare-ups were a fact of life. “I guess I got used to it. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me. In junior high, my coaches would always ask me how I was doing. I would just tell them I was fine, because as far as I knew I was,” she commented.
That all changed her freshman year in high school when the disease flared back up with a vengeance. During volleyball season that year, the pain intensified in her wrist and knee, and eventually the disease became so bad that a bone in her wrist started to erode. She was forced to sit out the basketball season while the doctors tried to find a way to help get the disease under control. The solution was weekly shots of methotrexate that had to be administered in her stomach, something every bit as painful as the disease itself. “The shots were not fun, but they worked so it was worth it,” she remarked.
Wolfe photo 4By spring she was able to participate in sports again, as she took up softball because track was not an option for her at that time. Her life returned to normal and Madison was able to compete in sports for the majority of her high school career without the disease flaring back up as it had her freshman year. As her senior basketball season wound down, she began to turn her focus to track, arguably her best sport. She had become a very good distance runner and pole vaulter.
But towards the very end of basketball season she began to feel overly tired, fatigued, and just sick in general. “I knew something was wrong, and sure enough I found out that I had Pneumonia.” With track rapidly approaching, her career as a long distance runner was over. “I was able to do track, but without being able to get the conditioning I needed to be able to run well, we started looking for another event,” she said. That is when the javelin entered the picture. Who suggested the event remains unclear as both parents take credit for coming up with the idea. What is certain is that it was a great idea. Having never thrown the javelin prior to that season, she advanced quickly under the tutelage of Assistant Bennington Track Coach Jerry Mick. In her first meet she placed fifth with a throw of 89 feet. By the end of the season she was the Class 2A State Champion in the event, having launched a throw 17 feet farther than her previous best mark entering the meet.
College coaches quickly took note, but it was Madison’s mother that cemented her future as a Tiger. “My mom actually reached out to Fort Hays State and basically told them this is what we would need to have, and they came through,” Madison said. At Hays she has continued her meteoric rise as a javelin thrower, nearly breaking the school record in her first year with a personal best throw of 155 feet 1 inch to win the MIAA conference title. At nationals she recorded a throw of 153 feet 7 inches to place sixth and become an NCAA II All-American, placing her on a trajectory to possibly become a National Champion. When asked what the key to her success has been, the humble Chemistry/Pre-med major pointed to the help of those around her. “My parents have always been so supportive. There were definitely times that I got pretty down about what I was dealing with and they would always lift me back up. I’ve also been very fortunate to have great coaches along the way.” She is grateful for the success she has had and hopes that she can offer encouragement to others who struggle with arthritis, especially children suffering from the juvenile form. “If there is one thing I have learned that has helped me, it is to never give up. It will get better, you just have to keep that in mind.”

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