A variety of medical conditions have plagued Kacie Washburn during her four seasons competing for the Thomas Worthington High School gymnastics team.
But instead of allowing the problems to end her career in the sport, the senior has persevered, drawing inspiration from her father.
Eleven years ago, Ricci Washburn was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Then, in November 2009, he fractured his skull in a bicycle accident and spent 15 days on a ventilator.
Released from a hospital more than a month after the accident, her father was left with permanent short-term memory loss.
"I've had a lot of bad things happen to me since I've been in high school, but I try to stay positive because I know that things could be a lot worse because of what my dad's been through," Washburn said. "My dad's my best friend and I know that he wouldn't want me to give up on any of my dreams just because I've gotten hurt or sick.
"I've watched my dad fight back from so many different things and, if he can do it, I know that I can come back from whatever hardships come my way, too."
Washburn began competing in gymnastics at age 3 and quickly moved up the ranks of club gymnastics, reaching level nine as an eighth-grader. But her string of misfortune began in December 2008, when she broke her left ankle while landing a vault during a club meet.
Having already been diagnosed with arthritis in her knees and ankles, she decided to quit club gymnastics and compete for her high school squad.
Washburn had to miss the first half of her freshman season, however, as she recovered from bouts with the flu, mononucleosis and strep throat and was diagnosed as having a fractured back. She returned to the lineup in time to qualify for the individual state meet on vault, placing 24th with a 9.0, and helped the Cardinals place 10th in the team state meet.
"I had a good freshman season because I hadn't had much time off from club gymnastics, so I had most of my skills and was still in good shape," Washburn said. "But that was the year when my dad's accident happened, and then I got really sick and found out my back was fractured. I was hoping my life would get easier after all of that."
Washburn stayed healthy throughout her sophomore season, helping the Cardinals place eighth in the state meet, but she wasn't as fortunate in her junior season. About Thanksgiving 2011, she contracted viral meningitis and missed the entire regular season. She returned in time to compete on vault at district, but she sprained her left ankle on her second attempt and spent the next four weeks in a walking boot.
"Having meningitis was probably the worst experience of my entire life," Washburn said. "I couldn't move, my whole body ached and I felt completely helpless. I hadn't competed all year, but I was stubborn and tried a difficult vault at the district meet and I hurt myself all over again."
Then, on Dec. 9, five days before the start of this season, Washburn was involved in a car accident, in which her head hit the steering wheel and suffered a concussion. She was forced to sit out the Cardinals' first two meets as recovering from the effects of whiplash and vertigo.
Washburn made her season debut Jan. 5 in a meet at Cincinnati Country Day, scoring a 7.95 on vault. The next day, she was taken to a hospital, where she spent two nights because of a kidney stone.
"When you look at everything that's happened to Kacie, it's almost like a made-up story because so many bad things shouldn't happen to one person in such a short amount of time," coach Marci Skeen said. "The amazing thing has been watching Kacie keep fighting her way back to the team no matter what life has thrown at her.
"We're grateful to have her because Kacie's a real valuable part of our team. Her scores certainly have made our team better when she's been able to compete, and she loves to help our less-experienced girls get better. The other girls on the team all look up to Kacie."
Wolves coach pleased with start to season
Kilbourne coach Cindy Fushimi likes what she has seen from her team so far.
The Wolves opened Dec. 8 by placing second (134.525) in the 16-team Forest Hills Flip Fest at Cincinnati Anderson behind Mason (136).
Allie Guist won uneven bars (8.825), placed fourth on vault (8.65) and was sixth in the all-around (33.625). Kayla Rice was fourth on floor exercise (9.05) and fifth in the all-around (33.65), and Selena Fushimi-Karns was fifth on bars (8.25) and sixth on floor (9.0).
The Wolves won their next two meets, scoring a 130.675 in a quad-meet Dec. 12 to finish ahead of second-place Delaware (115.3) and 132.925 in a five-team meet Jan. 3 to finish ahead of second-place Olentangy Liberty (126.35).
"So far, the season is going well," Fushimi said. "I've been particularly pleased with the progress that we've made on bars and (balance) beam. The girls are continually learning new skills to increase their difficulty on those events, so it's been exciting to see them incorporate those skills into their routines in competition. Our first meet of the season has been the most exciting so far. We scored pretty high for the first meet, so that was a great way to start the season."
Kilbourne plays host to the Wolfpack Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 19.
"We'll compete against Mentor, who placed second at state last year, so that will be a good challenge for us," Fushimi said.
"Allie Guist is new to the team this year and has made the transition smoothly. She is our leading scorer on vault and bars right now. Kayla Rice is consistently strong on beam and floor, and Selena Fushimi-Karns has shown a great deal of improvement on bars this year. Celeste Fushimi-Karns is our consistent performer on all events, and Emily Juhola is coming on strong after a slow start due to injury. Katie Armstrong is scoring well on bars, beam, and floor this year since she has added some difficulty to help her score higher."