As the track season nears its end with conference, regional and national championships remaining, Cal Poly will have to do without the services of defending national high-jump champion Sharon Day.
During finals week in December 2005, Day went for a free-run and tripped over the curb. At first, she thought her foot was just bruised, but the next day she was barely able to walk. The fall had fractured metatarsals in her foot and forced her to redshirt the 2006 track season.
“I thought, ‘there’s no way it could be that serious,’” Day said. “I’ve never had an injury anywhere near this before.”
Day broke the fifth metatarsal in her foot and, due to the low blood supply in that area, fractures heal very slowly. Doctors told Day that recovery would include four to six weeks in a cast and two weeks in a cam walker before she could begin running and jogging. “But, it’s been four months and I still can’t do more than walk,” Day said. “It’s just healing really slowly.”
Day is scheduled to have another surgery this week to help speed up the healing process. She doesn’t think the surgery will interfere with school, but she will have to be on crutches for a while.
“That’s the goal, to be ready for soccer,” Day said.
Besides winning a national championship in the high jump as a sophomore with a leap of 6 feet 4 inches, Day doubles as one of the top scorers on the women’s soccer team.
In 2003, Day was named Big West Freshman of the Year. In 2004, she led the soccer team in goals scored, tied for fifth in Cal Poly history for most goals scored in one season, was named to the Big West All-Conference first team and Soccer Buzz Magazine’s All-West Region third team.
“It’d be great if she can play but if she can’t play, she can’t,” women’s soccer coach Alex Crozier said. “Everyone’s body heals at a different rate.”
“Her foot injury was definitely unexpected because when it happened we didn’t think it would come down to two surgeries and a few months of rehab to get back to her normal self,” wrote Heidi McQuitty, the senior captain on the women’s soccer team, in an e-mail.
“This was very unfortunate, but I know Sharon and she will work hard to have a strong, quick recovery and she is just one of those people that is able to recover quickly.”
Day, the middle of three children, grew up in a very athletic family. Her grandfather, mother, father and older brother were all high-jumpers and her younger sister will be attending Washington State in the fall on a high-jumping scholarship.
“In seventh grade I tried it and I was good, so I stuck with it,” Day said. She occasionally competes in the four-by-four and open four, but usually just the high-jump.
Basketball was her sport growing up but she realized everyone else around her was playing soccer. She decided she might as well take up that sport as well. She has been playing soccer since the age of nine and doing track in a team setting since seventh grade.
“She’s a natural-born athlete,” track and field teammate Jessica Eggleston said. “Even with her injury, she’s still weight lifting. She has a really strong work ethic (and she’s) really determined. Every time I’ve seen her she’s in the weight room when I’m in the weight room.”
Day attended Costa Mesa High in Costa Mesa and played soccer, track and field and volleyball. She won state in track her junior and senior years and her soccer team tied for the California Interscholastic Federation title her senior year.
When she was accepted to Cal Poly she was originally under a track and field scholarship, but has since received a soccer scholarship.
“Sometimes it’s a little crazy, but it hasn’t been bad,” Day said of her schedule while playing two sports. “It’s a nice balance between school and working out and stuff. I’ve always been doing it my whole life – balancing everything with school and sports, so it’s not really that much of a difference.”
Some people have described Day as the best athlete at Cal Poly.
“Her athletic abilities are phenomenal,” Crozier said. “To win a national championship in an individual sport is quite a feat in and of itself, and to do that and be one of the leading scorers and outstanding players on the soccer team combined with that, there’s not that many people that can do that in two sports in college,” Crozier said.
“She’s very focused when she competes,” track and field teammate Rachel Valliere said. “(She) has her goal in mind and is willing to work to achieve the goal.”
In 2005 she was Big West and national champion in high jump, named to the Big West All-Conference first team, the Cal Poly and Big West record holder in high jump with a jump of 6-4 and Big West and Cal Poly female Athlete of the Year. She also qualified for Olympic trials.
“Sharon’s athletic ability exceeds most athletes in a way that comes natural to her,” McQuitty said in an e-mail. “She strives in everything she does, especially in track and soccer. She is very strong, fit and her speed is one aspect that stands above the rest.”
Day will be a senior when soccer season returns in the fall, and she has high hopes for the team to make it into the NCAA tournament after failing to qualify last year.
“In the past, we’ve made it to the first round of the NCAA tournament. Our goal is to make it past that first round though because we never have,” Day said.
Day said it is not really a problem when they play games away from home.
“We have our notes from the athletic department,” Day said. “We make up the work or just get it done and turn stuff in early or late or whatever. All my teachers have been really understanding.”
It will be a challenge for Day as her foot continues to recover and she begins training again, but she doesn’t doubt that she will be able to do it.
“We’ll see how everything goes,” Day said. “I think the main thing will just be getting back into shape. Getting my cardio back up, and stuff like that, so I’m not, like, sucking wind. But, as far as my foot it shouldn’t be a problem to play on it.”
When in season, Day doesn’t see her schedule as intense. She works out about two hours each day, five days a week and describes herself as a quiet person who enjoys shopping and, when she can, to “just chill and try to do nothing.”
“I’m always on the go so it’s nice to just take a moment sometimes,” Day said.
The past few months have been different for Day because her injury has changed her daily routine. Before, she would be up by 6:30 a.m., be at practice by 8 a.m., work out and attend classes in the afternoon and by 6 p.m., would begin to wind down from the day.
“(Now) it’s almost harder for me with school and stuff,” Day said. “When I have a schedule it’s easier to stay on task with those things, but now I have so much time. I procrastinate; don’t get stuff done (as quickly). It’s a lot harder to be motivated to do stuff because I have so much free time. It’s weird.”
“She’s very humble,” Crozier said. “She’s a stud basically. You’d have no idea if you were just to walk up and meet her on the street. You wouldn’t know what she was capable of doing. Her personality on the field as a competitor and her personality off the field is very quiet.”
She chose kinesiology as a major because she knew she wanted to do something related to sports, but was unsure of an exact focus.
“I’m really happy with that choice I made,” Day said. “I like the classes a lot. It’s interesting learning about how your body works and stuff like that. It’s a big part of who I am.”
Day is unsure of her summer plans, but says she will probably be splitting time between San Luis Obispo and Costa Mesa for training.