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Posted March 19, 2011

Melissa Isidor, Athlete of the Year
 
melissa isidor
High School Girls Track All-Stars

Unlike most people, Melissa Isidor likes it when something gets in her way. To her, obstacles aren't something intended to stop you from moving forward. They're something that makes you readjust on the fly and learn from the experience.

"Fast can only get you so far," said Isidor, who is gifted with natural speed. "You need those obstacles. That's what makes it a challenge."

For conquering both the metaphorical and literal obstacles that stood in her path this season, Melissa Isidor is the 2011 Standard-Times Girls Indoor Track Player of the Year. Even with virtually no practice time and battling through injuries all season, Isidor still managed to get all the way to the New England Meet in the 55 meter hurdles, where she placed eighth with a time of 8.62 seconds.

"I liked facing that stiffer competition, going up against the best in New England, because it pushes you to go faster," Isidor said. "It felt a lot different than any other meet. For the first time, I knew it was definitely last meet of the season there was nowhere else to go after that so I just went all out."

Isidor's sister Annifreed Sinjour was a championship track athlete at New Bedford, so she grew up around the sport. She began to compete herself in middle school, participating in the standing long jump at the Hershey Track and Field Meet and making it all the way to nationals. She didn't try the hurdles until last winter as a freshman, something she'd waited years to do.

"I always knew I'd be a hurdler," she said. "I knew (Whalers head coach) Isaiah (Houtman) and I told him I planned on hurdling when I got to high school."

After doing well as a freshman in the indoor and outdoor seasons last year, Isidor thought she was poised for a breakout campaign in her sophomore season. But a strain in the quadriceps muscle of her left leg kept her from practicing and competing in dual meets.

"All of a sudden it just started tightening up and I couldn't get it loose," she said. "It just kept getting worse."

Attempting to overcompensate for the injury then led to a strain in her right quad, and that limited her as well. When Isidor returned in time for the Big 3 championship meet, Houtman opted not to place her in the hurdles partly because she hadn't practiced the event for three weeks, but mostly because Brockton has the best hurdler in the state in Vanessa Clerveaux, who went on to become New England champion. Isidor instead competed in the dash and she won the event, as the Whalers squeaked out a one-point win for the conference crown.

"I won it by one-hundredth of a second (7.61) and I was pretty surprised," she said. "I don't particularly like the dash; it's boring to me, because there are no obstacles."

Still, she was glad she could contribute to the Whalers winning the conference crown.

"Our main goal as a team was to win the Big 3," Isidor said. "I thought we could win it, even when the coaches didn't, because I was sitting on the sidelines at practices and at dual meets. Even though I was depressed having to sit out, it let me see how good of a team we were."

Isidor tried to make a go of it at the MSTCA Coaches Invitational and suffered a hamstring injury that kept her out of the McIntyre Elite Meet and the Auerbach Freshman-Sophomore Meet.

"At the Elite Meet, I warmed up but I couldn't run," Isidor said. "I only ran in six meets before the Division I meet, and hadn't hurdled or even practiced in two weeks leading up to that meet. I was unsure what to expect."

"There's no real way to overcome an injury except with time," Houtman said. "There are only 10 weeks in the season and to be injured for four of them really put her at a disadvantage, but she showed her dedication by fighting her way through it and having some big performances."

She placed third in the Division 1 meet with a personal best 8.59 finish, and also competed in the long jump and the 4x200 relay. She put up a season best in the long jump, coming in sixth at 16-7, and the 4x200 team came in ninth (1:50.50). From there, it was on to the state meet, where Isidor was third in the hurdles (8.62) and 14th in the long jump (16-01).

"I was disappointed with that because I had to go right from the hurdles to the long jump, and I didn't get any warm-up jumps in," she said.

Still, Isidor's versatility means she'll likely get another chance to prove what she can do in the long jump.

"She had her hand in every part of the sport," Houtman said. "What's funny is that she doesn't seem to feel the pressure. She seems to think that maybe because she's a sophomore, she's not expected to do well. That gives her the freedom to just think about turning in a great performance, and if she ends up winning, she's even happier."

Considering how much she accomplished with so little time to dedicate to honing her craft, Isidor can hardly wait for the couple of weeks' break between the winter and spring seasons to come to an end.

"I'm just going to rest as much as I can before the spring season," Isidor said. "I think I could have run a lot faster than I did in the hurdles, but I was afraid to because of the injuries. I didn't exactly meet my goals, and I know with more time to heal and if I really work on my technique, I can start to get there. I'm really excited for the spring season."

And with it, whatever obstacles it might put in her way.

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