North Brunswick High senior Nicole Fosko’s life as an athlete was derailed just as her junior year with the Raiders basketball team was to begin.
She suffered a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and bucket tear of the meniscus of her right knee when she collided with an opponent in a preseason game. The end of her volleyball season was wiped out, as was the entire winter season ahead.
“It was very, very painful,” Fosko said.
The injury “shattered her reality,” she recalled in an essay written for USA Today High School Sports and the National Guard’s 2014 Most Inspirational Athletes contest.
Her essay was one of the reasons she was chosen as one of 100 submitted by athletes around the country to be part of the contest.
Voting for the award is being done at http://contest.usatodayhss.com/inspiration/round-1/honor/6156and runs through March 31.
Athletes with the most votes advance to the second round. The winner will have a profile written about them in USA Today, be awarded the “Inspiration Trophy” presented at a school assembly and win a $1,000 donation to their school’s athletic department.
“It’s extremely flattering,” said Fosko, who hopes to attend an Ivy League school and major in pre-med and go on to a career in pediatric medicine.
Fosko had surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in December 2012 to reconstruct the ligaments in the knee. That was followed with eight months of therapy. She was out of school for two weeks and on crutches until mid-January, watching her teammates race up and down the court.
She advised athletes facing similar circumstances to trust patience.
“Stay positive, take things one at a time, be happy with each progression you make,” said the 18-year-old.
Her return came in the fall when she rejoined the volleyball team where she was captain along with outside hitter. She also had a complete basketball season, moving from guard to forward. She has decided not to compete in track this year.
“She’s an inspiration, not just as an athlete, but in other things, she’s active in clubs and in the community,” said North Brunswick High Principal Joseph Peter Clark.
While recovering and without athletics, she stayed busy through DECA, a school business club. She competed in regional and state conferences, placing second in the state before competing in an international conference in California.
She also kept busy as a volunteer for the Mercer County-based Center for FaithJustice. She has worked in a Trenton soup kitchen and last summer raised $1,000 for the poverty-stricken residents of Dunlow, W.Va., an unincorporated community in coal country southern Wayne County. She pitched in with the building of a community center.
“I love doing community service,” Fosko said.