AUSTINTOWN - Talent, hard work and determination is the recipe for success.
Unfortunately, sometimes it can also cause one to take a few steps back.
That was the situation Howland's Nicole Pachol dealt with prior to the 2008 track and field season. After coming up short at the 2007 regional final meet, the sophomore-turned-junior hurdler trained hard for the 2008 season. In the process, something went terribly wrong.
"I tore my left hip labrum while I was training," Pachol said. "I had to miss my entire junior season. It was very frustrating because I had some big goals set for myself."
That season was very difficult for Pachol, but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she was determined to not only make a full recovery, but to come back even better than she was before. That was easier said than done, but her father, Greg Pachol, saw a change in his daughter's preparation for her senior year.
"Nicole followed all of her doctor's orders and was very patient in her recovery," he said. "Once she was allowed to start training again, she took a more conservative approach. Instead of focusing on her talent, she worked on all of the technical things that she may have been doing wrong before. She just wanted to get better."
To say that Nicole came back better is an understatement.
Now a senior, she has ran her races at a record-setting pace. Heading into last week's preliminaries of the Division I Austintown District meet, her intentions weren't to just qualify, but to run the best race of her career. In the process, she posted a state-high time of 43.28 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles. The adversity she dealt with in the past has motivated her to push to be the best every time she's on the track.
"Last year, I felt like something was taken away from me when I got injured," Pachol said. "I love to compete, so I'm not focused on just qualifying. I run every race like it's my last, so I don't take anything for granted. I have a new respect for track because of what I went through."
At Friday's district finals, Pachol went out and finished what she started two days earlier as she took the crowns in the 100 and 300 hurdles. She also led the Tigers' 1,600 relay team in qualifying for this week's regional meet, which is Wednesday and Friday in Austintown, as it finished fourth. Being the leader she is, Pachol is thrilled to see her teammates come along for the ride to regionals.
"I feel great," she said after Friday's finals. "We've all worked very hard this year, and it's good to know that we'll be running again next week. The relays are important to me because I wanted to be able to experience next week's meet with my teammates."
Howland girls' track coach Dan Libert has seen his young athlete blossom into not only a great competitor, but a solid mentor to her teammates.
"She's unbelievable," Libert said. "She's a great competitor, but she has been an even better teammate. She does everything asked of her, and our younger athletes follow her lead. We're much better because of that."
Regardless of what happens from here on out, the odds of Pachol's family having to come out of their pockets to pay for a college education are very slim. Several colleges have been in contact with the Pachols this season.
Nicole knows they've been watching, and that motivates her to show that she's more than just a great hurdler.
"Most colleges are interested in me running in the 400-meter hurdles and in the short distance races," she added. "That's good, but I want to show them that I can do many more things on the track. I'm prepared to do whatever I need to do to run at the college level."
Her mother, Renee Pachol, has enjoyed every minute of her daughter's senior season. Despite the obstacles that Nicole has faced last year, the end result has been very rewarding for the entire Pachol family.
"I'm so proud of Nicole," Renee said. "She fought hard to make it to this point. She wasn't satisfied with just coming back. To see how far she has come is only icing on the cake."
After another pit stop in Austintown, a family trip to the state meet Columbus is very likely for the Pachols.