Ciana Curran couldn’t believe how violent the process to repair a torn ACL was.
An intern in the CU Sports Medicine surgery room, Curran leaned in closer, fascinated by watching the surgery.
It was like she was standing atop a precipice with her past on one side, her future on the other, meeting at this point.
Curran has torn her ACL. She’s torn her meniscus. She’s recovered from both, maintained stellar grades in school, performed well in the softball pitching circle and is now verbally committed to the University of Pennsylvania where she hopes to become a doctor.
Observing the surgery gave the Fort Collins High School senior a glimpse at one of the many obstacles she’s overcome.
“It was very eye-opening and I was like ‘this is why my leg hurt,’” Curran said, recalling her own ACL surgery.
That injury is just one of the hurdles she’s overcome to get to this weekend, where she’ll lead the Lambkins as the No. 6 seed in the Class 5A state tournament in their first-round game against No. 11 Legend (12:15 p.m. Friday at Aurora Sports Park).
The most consistent obstacle Curran has faced in her softball career is her size. Or lack thereof.
At a slender 5-foot-5 she’s far from the typical build for a pitching superstar, with most Division I pitchers pushing 6-feet.
“She’s always been kind of the underdog. She always comes in and ‘you’re too small, we’ll let the bigger kid have the first shot,’ ” her mom, Jacquelyn, said. “She’s always the underdog.”
She’s been passed over without a second glance from several club coaches and pitching coaches, despite success at every level.
Then there’s the injury bug.
Curran was hit in the back of the head with a ball in warmups as an eighth-grader at Kinard Middle School. She played the game, but after she was diagnosed with a severe concussion and missed a month of school.
She also suffered chronic headaches — not related to the concussion — that weren’t fixed until sinus reconstruction surgery.
After a successful freshman season, Curran tore her ACL skiing. She missed virtually her entire sophomore high school and club seasons, because of that.
As a junior, she hit .441 with eight doubles and four home runs. She had a 2.78 ERA in the circle with 64 strikeouts in 55.1 innings pitched.
That should be the story right there — kid successfully returns from injury.
But her knee hurt all season. A routine clean-out surgery in November discovered a torn meniscus that she had played on all season. It sidelined her for five months.
“When everyone else was playing and getting better, she was rehabbing and working on being able to move at all, let alone at a high level,” her father Larry said. “It’s been a lot of work and heartache and some tears. Nobody is harder on herself than herself.”
Ever since she was little, her dream was to play softball in the Ivy League. After all the setbacks, her parents asked if she wanted to chase another dream — Stanford — and apply as a student, not student-athlete. Her grades and test scores would have given her a shot, but that would have been the end of softball.
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She plans to go to Penn’s Wharton School of Business, the top business school in the nation. Then she’ll go on to post-grad to become a doctor.
But she loves softball and feels like she’s still getting better.
The self-described perfectionist wasn’t about to quit. Just like everything else in her life, the obstacles were just another fun challenge.
As a senior, Curran is 13-6 with a 3.02 ERA and 122 strikeouts (seventh-most in 5A), despite still rehabbing her knee.
It maybe isn’t the journey she would have chosen, but it’s working for her.
“Even when I got hurt, it was a blessing in disguise,” Curran said. “I got to work on a lot of the small things in pitching, which I wasn’t really focusing on when I got hurt… I’m always working hard to get to the next spot. It’s definitely paid off so far.”
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
Softball state tournament
5A first round: No. 11 Legend vs. No. 6 Fort Collins, 12:15 p.m. Friday
5A first round: No. 12 Fossil Ridge vs. No. 5 Dakota Ridge, 10 a.m. Friday
5A second round: 2:30 p.m. Friday
5A semifinals: 10 a.m. Saturday
5A final: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Location: All games played at Aurora Sports Park