Pickerington Central Roundup: 'Determined' Riley Smith, Brenna Todd rebound from injuries

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Central girls lacrosse players Brenna Todd (left) and Riley Smith both have turbulent histories when it comes to injuries but are standing out this season for the Tigers. Smith is a senior attacker and Otterbein recruit. Todd is a junior midfielder who also can play attacker and defender.

Riley Smith and Brenna Todd are filling exactly the roles they expected for the Pickerington Central girls lacrosse team, but the road they traveled to this point has been filled with detours and setbacks.

A lengthy list of injuries includes a stress fracture, torn ACL, surgery for a heart defect and a broken collarbone from being stepped on by a horse.

Still, both play with grit and even manage to smile about the past few years, positivity aided by the Tigers’ 5-3 overall record before playing Olentangy Orange on April 16. Central is 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

“I don’t think a lot of kids their age would still be playing. A lot of kids might have given up after going through what they’ve gone through, but they’re super determined and both have an intensity and will to not let those things set them back,” coach Brian Walton said. “They both attacked their injuries with an intensity and desire to get back as quickly as possible.”

Smith’s 17 goals through eight games were second on the team to Capital recruit Grace Osborn’s 41 goals and 10 assists. The senior also had eight assists, 22 ground balls, eight caused turnovers and six assists.

Todd, a junior who primarily plays midfield but sometimes drops back into the defense, had six goals, three assists and 14 ground balls before April 16.

Smith started at midfielder early in her freshman season but tore her right ACL in Central’s fifth game. She returned as a sophomore but moved to attacker to ease back into the game, only to suffer a broken collarbone that summer while trick riding on a horse. That injury required two plates and eight screws.

Her next injury was more of a surprise. Smith went to a doctor in late 2020 for what she thought was a case of turf toe, only for her physician to discover a hole in her talus, a bone that makes up the lower part of the ankle.

“He took an MRI and I had all my ligaments torn and bone fragments in there. He told me the largest bone fragment in there was the size of a silver dollar, but I hadn’t had much pain,” said Smith, who is an Otterbein recruit. “He compared it to a ticking time bomb.”

Smith underwent surgery in December and was cleared to play March 18, the day before the Tigers’ season opener at Hilliard Bradley and the same day the team came out of a two-week quarantine.

At the same time, Todd — who started 13 of 18 games as a freshman — was overcoming her own multitude of injuries. She had heart ablation surgery because of arrhythmia in February 2020, only to miss cross country season in the fall because of a stress fracture in her left leg.

In addition, Todd was battling compartment syndrome, a condition that causes pressure to build in the muscles and complicates circulation.

“I had to push back and ignore any negative thoughts,” Todd said. “We got so much support from our teammates (during recovery). To me, (success) is not even about the goals, it’s about winning more games. Assists are important to me. Ground balls are important to me. Caused turnovers are important to me. I would take a defensive stop anytime.”

Smith said she wouldn’t change any of the adversity of the past three years.

“I’m thankful for my injuries. All of them have taught me a certain lesson I wouldn’t have learned if not for being hurt,” she said. “I appreciate the game even more.”

Power on display

for softball team

Softball coach Stephanie Peterson admitted some surprise at her team’s penchant for home runs early in the year, but said that is the result of an improved approach and some hunger after an early loss.

Central was 7-2 before beginning OCC-Buckeye play April 15 at Newark and had 16 home runs through nine games. Five of those came in a 13-10 win over Westerville Central on April 10, a game the Tigers trailed 7-2 in the second inning.

“We’re hitting out of our minds right now. I hope it keeps getting better,” Peterson said. “We’ve worked hard. Our defense comes more naturally, so we’ve been focused on hitting. We didn’t focus on situational hitting early. We were just hitting balls. We just went to the plate and hit. 

“Now, our mindset is changed and there’s more of a team approach. I knew once they took the pressure off, they could start producing like this.”

Ellie Tressler had four home runs and Tristen Keuchler had three through nine games, while Tori Angles, Colleen Bate, Lilli Burns and Carmen Moore had two apiece and Shayla Bailey had one.

Kogge among baseball

team’s contributors

The baseball team had won four out of six games and was 6-4 before playing Newark on April 14, and senior Seth Kogge was one of several consistent contributors in that stretch.

On the mound, Kogge gave up three runs and three hits while striking out five and walking four in a 5-3 win over Gahanna on April 7. Two days later in a 10-3 win at Thomas Worthington, Kogge had two hits and an RBI. He then had two hits the next day as the Tigers edged Watkins Memorial 5-3.

Kogge also earned the victory in Central’s 11-0, six-inning win at Newark to begin OCC-Buckeye play April 12. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out six.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave