Spartan Comeback Athletes: Zoie Armstrong reflects on her recovery from a torn ACL

Armstrong looks to become a key figure this season for the Lady Spartans basketball team after the loss of several seniors from last years state runners up team.

What do athletes Paul George, Peyton Manning, and Alex Smith all have in common? Well, besides being professional athletes, they have suffered serious injuries while playing the sports they love and have made miraculous comebacks. Professional athletes get much more coverage than high school athletics for obvious reasons, as they are more nationally known, but it’s still important to spotlight high school athletes. The goal of this series is to do just that: highlight the athletes at Lincoln East that have fought against the odds to return after suffering a serious injury and how they were able to persevere through the tough times. The first feature is on senior Zoie Armstrong.
It started off as a normal Tuesday for junior forward Zoie Armstrong. Armstrong, a basketball player and standout softball player for the Spartans was headed up to Omaha to play Omaha Central. She went to school, then rode the bus up with the team but as she was going through warmups, she heard a pop in her right knee while going up for a layup.
“When I went down, I thought that I popped my kneecap out of place because I did that during softball a few months earlier,” Zoie Armstrong said. “So I thought that I was going to be fine in a couple of days but then the Central trainer tugged on my knee and said ‘your acl is torn.’”
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament, more commonly referred to as ACL, is a ligament in your knee that prevents hyperextension as well as helping to stabilize the knee during rotational movements. This is an injury that is becoming more common in athletes especially in sports such as basketball, soccer, football, and skiing. With recent medical advances, the time it takes someone to recover from a torn ACL is getting quicker and quicker, now six to nine months instead of closer to a year.
Armstrong had surgery eight days later, on January 22nd. “I went in and it’s actually only like a 90 minute surgery so it’s quick, and I woke up and I couldn’t move my leg or lift it or anything,” Armstrong said. Shortly after surgery, she was off to physical therapy in order to regain strength in her knee to hopefully return in time for her senior softball season. The toughest part of the recovery process was just how long it took Armstrong stated.
“I had to meet certain milestones, so like the first three weeks I wasn’t allowed to put any pressure on it really. Then they didn’t allow me to run for almost three months,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think that I even touched a [softball] field for like four and a half months after my surgery which was a really long time.”
As for the actual physical therapy aspect, Zoie enjoyed that part because of her love for exercising. That actually helped her keep a positive mentality knowing that what she was doing was all going to be worth it if she was back in time for her senior year.
Nine months later, senior Zoie Armstrong was back on the field making an impact. “I started off slow because I was just coming back and getting back up to speed in the outfield,” Armstrong said. But once she got back up to speed, Zoie was able to help the team to a 5th place finish at the state tournament and a 30-11 record. When talking to Lincoln East softball head coach Lance Kingery, you get a sense of just how important Armstrong was to the team as both a leader and athlete.
“Zoie is a really great young lady who hasn’t been given anything along the way,” Kingery said. “Rather she has earned her way back to the lineup where she became a critical piece. We will miss her but are so proud of what she accomplished and the example she set for our younger players.”
“One really neat thing about Zoie this year is that she was able to finally get what she worked so hard for,” Kingery said. “It’s difficult when you tell an athlete that if they do A, B, and C they will be successful and when they are on the threshold of seeing it take form, they get hurt and are thrown back to square one. But with the work ethic that Zoie has, and her determination to impact our season in a positive manner, she was able to have a season so full of what we as coaches called “Senior Moments” that will hopefully last with her for the rest of her life.”
Some of those moments include a grand slam (home run) against Lincoln Southwest and the game winning hit to send the Spartans to the state tournament after being down seven runs against Millard South in the last inning. As for personal accolades, Armstrong earned a spot on the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World Herald’s Class A All-State Second Team as well as Academic All-State in a memorable return to action.
Injuries are a part of life and especially sports. There are two options when they occur: you can either pout and feel bad for yourself, or you can take it as an opportunity to work harder to get back to full strength and help your team in any way possible. That’s what senior Zoie Armstrong did. Her perseverance through the tough times that come with injuries as well as her success on the field and above all else her attitude made her a great feature for the first Spartan comeback athlete feature.