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updated: 5/12/2012 10:47 PM

Van Grondelle battles into history books

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Just a couple of days ago Maggie Van Grondelle was concerned her high school badminton career might be history.

A back strain knocked the Palatine senior out of the sectional championship match and kept her off the court until Wednesday. The early returns were not favorable for a fourth and final trip to the state tournament in Charleston

"It wasn't looking very good," Van Grondelle said. "I couldn't really do much."

But Van Grondelle didn't want to go out on the sidelines. She was determined to fight through it as well as she could this weekend at Eastern Illinois University.

The rest is state badminton history -- which Van Grondelle achieved with a fifth-place finish in singles to join York's Linda French (1979-82) as the only four-time medalists.

"That was a goal to do that when I came in as a freshman after playing with Katie," Van Grondelle said of her older sister. "I would have never expected myself to be able to do that and accomplish something not many other people have.

"I'm happy and obviously there was all the help I've gotten from everyone. Not just the people I played with but my coaches, family and friends."

And the past week-plus it was the assistance of doctors and athletic trainers after she suffered the strain trying to hit an overhead shot. She tried to keep playing, but was already in the state field, so she was pulled out by coach Allison West.

The pain wasn't constant but the problem was not knowing when it would come and go. The result for Van Grondelle was a daily dose of chiropractor visits, trips to the athletic trainer and a lot of ice.

She didn't hit until Wednesday and did a brief half-hour warm-up Thursday in Charleston but they were nowhere close to state-finals intensity.

"I was definitely going to try," Van Grondelle said, "but I didn't know how well it would go."

Van Grondelle won her first two matches but then lost in three games in Friday's third round to fall into the consolation bracket. The pain and trouble with her back was increasing but she stayed alive and in contention for a medal Saturday.

Even her dad Chris, who is also Buffalo Grove's coach, wondered if she would be able to play Saturday after a long stretch where her back could tighten up and become a bigger problem.

But she made sure to use a heating pad while she slept and then warm up really well before what she hoped would be her last four high school matches. She won all four in two games to add to last year's doubles title with Tomoyo Tsurumi and sixth- and fifth-place finishes her first two years.

"Wednesday night I was nervous because I didn't think I'd be able to go out and play at all," Van Grondelle said. "I tried to block it out and enjoy my last few games whether I won or lost.

"I wanted to make sure I had fun. It's been fun and I went out and played and gave it my all. I didn't want to give up."

Maggie Van Grondelle now has four state medals to prove she doesn't give in easily -- if at all.

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