Jeff Ducharme photo/Telegraph-Journal

Player pushes through knee rehab to make it onto Games field

by Kevin Barrett - Thursday, August 20, 2009

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

Just as her senior year in high school was underway, Justine Jarvis heard a pop in her knee.

Late last September, the Saint John native planted her foot while running the bases in a varsity softball contest and when she twisted to reverse her path, she knew immediately something was wrong.

It didn't hurt that much but it wasn't until the next morning, when she couldn't walk a short distance to school, that she was told by friends to get it checked.

The ultimate diagnosis reflected a severe injury - a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn meniscus.

For Jarvis, who was a leader in the Canada Games training program, the injury put what seemed like a sure berth on the New Brunswick women's softball squad in jeopardy

But this week, the talented 18-year-old outfielder is back in the lineup, taking her cuts at the plate and making plays in the field in an experience of a lifetime.

All this after extensive knee surgery in January, four months of intense rehabilitation and a desire to represent the province on the national stage.

"I know there are a lot of people who are in worse situations than I was but being here, I feel like I actually accomplished something," Jarvis said during a break in New Brunswick's busy schedule this week.

After the initial pop, she continued to play in the high school league and even ran for Saint John High School at the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.

But her knee did not improve and her pace of play with the Games team slowed noticeably as the fall went on.

Finally in November, at a Games team workout, where the players were running timed sprints, her knee gave out again.

"I sprinted but when I went to stop at the other end of the gym, I couldn't plant on it and it gave out," she explained. "That's when I realized I couldn't keep going because I couldn't perform like I used to."

However, her doctor couldn't perform surgery until February, which given a six-month recovery period, would have left het out of the Games selection process.

Through some connections the team's coaches had, she was able to get the operation scheduled for early January in Moncton.

"The Canada Games was a big part if it," she said of her motivation. "I knew how much work had to go into to it. If we had not had the Canada Games, I don't know how hard I would have worked to make a full recovery. With the Games, I knew I had to get the surgery to perform at my best."

After six weeks on crutches following the surgery, the physiotherapy sessions started. During the process, she never missed a team workout, opting to watch her teammates sweat it out from the sidelines.

The next concern was the team selection process, which took place earlier than she expected. But Jarvis didn't want to let go of her dream so she slowly began working out in late April to prepare.

"That scared me a bit because I didn't know how ready I would be and I didn't know if I could do all the things they were going to ask me to do."

Thorough the process, she credits her coaches for slowing her down when she needed it because, "sometimes I don't know when to stop."

New Brunswick manager Guiliano DeBortolio credits her dedication, her willingness to take part in all activities even when she was hurt.

He said even with the injury, she is still one of the best outfielders in the province.

"She is full of desire and she works very hard," DeBortoli said. "She plays a big role on this team."

By the time the team was ready for a two-week tour of Ontario in early summer to prepare for P.E.I., Jarvis, wearing a brace, had cemented her spot in the lineup.

"It was emotional for sure," she said. "I am pretty relieved and I think my parents are relieved as well that it all worked out in the end. We were all unsure if surgery was the best option and I don't think a lot of people expected me to recover so quickly. I am proud that I was able to do it in such a short time."

Meanwhile, New Brunswick (1-6) lost a pair of games Wednesday.

The squad ran into a near perfect pitching performance in its morning match with Alberta.

Camille Czarnecki allowed just one N.B. hit over seven innings in picking up the 3-0 win for Alberta. Kiera Lyons was the offensive star for the Western Canada squad with a pair of hits and two runs batted in.

The loss overshadowed a great pitching performance from Saint John native Alecia O"Brien. She tossed a complete game allowing three runs on six hits while striking out three. Samantha DeBortoli of Saint John had the lone N.B. hit.

New Brunswick wraps up its women's softball schedule today with Games against Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

In the late game, Ontario scored nine runs in the first inning en route to a 11-0 triumph. Sam DeBortoli suffered the loss and had one of the three N.B. hits. Katie Carr of Rusagonis and Alisha Sherwood of Saint John had the other hits in the contest stopped after five innings