It was an innocent moment that everyone did as a youth.
Paige Taber was in the kitchen with her younger brother, dancing, laughing and having a good time.
All of that enthusiasm of the 14-year old freshman at Independence came to a crashing halt when Taber landed awkwardly, twisting her ankle, and sending her family into a whirlwind of doctors appointments and medical red tape that nearly ended her standout freshman campaign before it even began.
Thankfully for Taber, there were medical professionals that got to the root of the problem in time and she’s now nearly at 100 percent and a favorite to win a Division II title at the Central Section Swimming Championships beginning Friday at the Clovis West Aquatics Center in Fresno.
Just being back in the pool is a miracle to the family, let alone Taber setting a personal-best in the girls 100 backstroke at the league championship on Saturday at Garces in 58.01 seconds.
When she injured her ankle, Taber said she was “jumping in the kitchen and I landed wrong and twisted my ankle. I heard it pop. Thought I could walk it off. Then I took another step and I heard another pop.”
Her mother, Colleen, said her and her husband were at a church function when it happened. When the raced home, they realized their daughter, who she said has a high pain threshold dating back to have two bladder reconstruction surgeries before the age of 2, in excruciating pain.
“She was crying. The look of fear was on her face,” Colleen said. “She was worried about what it meant for her.”
First it was a trip to a local urgent care center moment before the location was closing for the night.
The results weren’t good enough for the family on that Friday night. So then an emergency room the next day got the ball rolling. Still, her swimming season was in doubt.
“Nothing was broken, but it was swollen and she was in excruciating pain,” Colleen said.
So the family continued to get help from her pediatric physical, Dr. Nimisha Amin, who recommend a trip down south to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
That’s where the questions the family had asked were being answered. Intensive physical therapy was the key once the cast was removed. The physician in L.A. found that she just needed to go through therapy and work through the pain.
Taber finally began swimming again at full strength in late March.
Mentally, her parents feel she was better equipped to deal with the adversity more than a normal high school freshman because of the time last summer Paige spent at a leadership conference in Atlanta where she found other high-end athletes that talked about their difficulties and perseverances.
“Spending time at the conference and meeting other girls that have had the same situations made it easier on me knowing there are other out there to remind me I am not alone,” Paige said.
Since, Paige has made nine section championship cuts and set nine school records at Independence, leading the Falcons to the program’s first South Yosemite League championship.
“As a freshman, it’s amazing,” Independence swim coach Alison Abrams said. “She is very driven and ambitious.”
But the progress was slow, at first, because with the events Taber is best at forced her to put a great deal of pressure on her ankles like the 100 backstroke because the turn halfway through the race means a strong push off the pool wall.
“She is one of those kids that keeps all that emotions in her head,” Colleen said. “We wanted to make sure she would not reinjure it. We didn’t want a set back, just forward progress even if meant she was swimming like a snail. It was nice when she was happy when she got out of the pool.”
Then when she did start to swim and push off the wall without pain, it was exhilarating for everyone involved.
“I was so happy. I thought I was going to go to the moon,” Paige said. “If I wasn’t in the pool, I would have been jumping up and down.”