Reagan Oliveri was working out on a Wednesday in the summer of 2014, preparing for her junior year on the gymnastics team.
The now-senior all-around took off for a tumbling pass on her floor routine at McGonigle Hall. When she plunged to make a flip, she tore her right Achilles tendon.
“The first thing you think of is, ‘Oh, it’s nothing,’ because you’re in shock,” Oliveri said. “Then when it kind of sets in a little bit that there is an injury there, panic comes next. I kind of had a feeling of what it was. I knew there was something wrong with my ankle, but I wasn’t definitely sure.”
Oliveri was carried to the team’s training room, and once the injury was officially diagnosed, she had surgery two days later.
Following the surgery, Oliveri’s doctor wanted her to rest before she began moving around on crutches. The weekend after her surgery, Oliveri lay on the couch to begin her 10-month rehabilitation.
“Being an athlete, even if you are injured, you want to get up and move,” Oliveri said. “It was summer so I was fortunate enough to call up friends from home and say, ‘Hey, I need to get out of my house, can you pick me up?’ It was a lot of sitting and waiting, a lot of no physical activity which is always hard for an athlete.”
In her first season as an Owl, Oliveri was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s Coaches’ Choice for the week of March 19. She earned a season-high of 9.6 on the uneven bars at the team’s dual-meet against the College of William and Mary on March 17, 2013.
As a sophomore, Oliveri was named Temple’s Most Valuable Gymnast and was named a USA Gymnastics first-team All American. She also earned a silver medal at the USAG Nationals with a score of 9.8 on the balance beam.
“Anyone who has ever been in a situation like that or been through an injury, they know how difficult it is to come back,” first-year coach Umme Salim-Beasley said. “She was determined, and it was really us going through day by day setting goals for her, then we’d go week by week setting goals. It was really for her to be able to not look so far into the future and just focus on things little by little.”
Oliveri scored a 9.7 for her first beam routine in more than a year in the team’s first competition against Central Michigan University on Jan. 3.
“I was honestly skeptical coming in in the beginning,” Oliveri said of her return. “You always hear stories about athletes that can’t come back on events, but I kind of just kept in my mind that I wanted to come back and be the all-arounder I was in my earlier years on the team.”
In the Feb. 6 Ken Anderson Memorial Invitational, Oliveri competed in floor—the same event she injured herself on—as well as vault, beam and bars, reaching her post-surgery goal of competing in all four events.
The senior set a career high with a score of 9.85 on uneven bars at the invitational and tied a season-high with a 9.7 on the balance beam that meet as well.
“She was able to overcome some fears of not doing certain skills for a long period of time,” Salim-Beasley said. “It shows what a leader she is, and that’s why she’s one of our captains. Her work ethic and determination and the fact that she gives 100 percent every single day is an extremely impressive feat.”
Dan Newhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danny_newhart.