Caprice Powell's Road to Recovery

Determination. That's one word that can sum up Caprice Powell's college career at Sacramento State. As a student-athlete, it's no secret that injury comes with the territory. For most, it's fuels their focus and hunger. Caprice Powell had that focus and hunger. Facing multiple injuries throughout her career, she overcame and claimed every goal she set. However, after graduating and having a strong finish with the Hornets, she finds herself redirecting her focus on preparing for a comeback.

Caprice Powell's introduction to track and field sparked when her P.E. teacher, Mr. Julian, discovered her athleticism and ability to sprint in the fourth grade. During a softball game, when the opposing team of classmates hit the ball into the outfield, the P.E. teacher noticed as Caprice ran the ball down. Instead of throwing it back in, Caprice ran the ball in and managed to catch the the kid heading for home base. At that moment, Mr. Julian wasted no time to clock-in her speed. Within that same year, Caprice found herself in Hershey, Pennsylvania representing Northern California, competing in the 200 meter dash. As a result, she placed fourth overall and then her actual training began. That same P.E. teacher, Mr. Julian, trained Caprice all summer long, entering her into several meets and ended up back in Hershey the following year. However this time, Caprice took second overall. Back home in East Palo Alto, California, Caprice's community honored her by giving her the key to the city for being the first to accomplish something big, at such a young age. Powell then continued to run track throughout middle and high school, but her love for the sport hadn't quite developed yet. "To be honest.. track was simply something I was doing because my coach made me. I had not truly discovered the love for it until the very day it was taken away from me." Caprice explained.

As she transitioned into high school track, Powell's first two years competing were great. Caprice was being coached under Victor Hudson and he got Caprice right where she needed to be. The following summer, in her sophomore year, she attended a Christian camp in North Carolina. After being there for about a week, Powell decided to participate in a friendly game of basketball her last day there, initially she did not want to play, but insisted on doing so when a team needed just one more player. As the 5 on 5 game started, the ball gets thrown to Caprice. She does a quick dribble, steps back and jumps to shoot a basket. As she's doing this, another girl comes and aggressively jumps in her direction to block the ball, and her foot comes directly down on Caprice Powell's knee− forcing her to the ground. After months of not seeing a doctor due to no insurance, Caprice and her family played it by ear and went off how she felt. She tolerated the pain for awhile, until she just couldn't take it any longer. After being seen, it was confirmed that Caprice had torn her ACL and medial meniscus in her right knee. After her surgery, Powell realized that competing in her junior season wasn't going to happen. So, she started rehabbing once a week at Kaiser considering that was all her family could afford at that time. Caprice's six to nine month recovery turned into a seventeen month recovery and she had no clue how to help herself. "The progression was turtle slow" says Caprice. Things started to look a little different and her desire of wanting to run collegiate track and field slowly vanished. Powell was disappointed and her ordeal ultimately resulted in her not wanting anything to do with the sport. "I did not want to go near a track, I didn't want to talk about track" explains Powell. Throughout this time, her family and her coach expressed that she should continue to try and strengthen her knee, but every time she would run it would give her problems. After competing once during her senior season, running slower than she had ever ran before, Caprice Powell developed a dislike for track. She felt nobody possibly understood her and what she was going through, which created a go-to outlet for her journal and prayer.

When the time for college came around, Caprice Powell didn't have many options to choose from− and the two she did have, were based on academics. Sacramento State was one of those options, however Caprice missed the acceptance date. She spoke with her high school coach about it and he immediately said "Caprice, I know the track and field coach at Sac State and I will talk to her and see if there's anything she can do to get you enrolled at the University." Before you know it, Caprice Powell was taking a trip out to Sacramento to meet with Coach Raske. Although Powell wasn't for it, her coach convinced her that she was placed in her dilemma for a reason and that she should keep an open mind, and Caprice did. Once they meet with the Coach, she immediately points out how skinny Caprice is and asks for her best times in both the 100 and 200 meter dash. Nervously, Caprice gives her times from sophomore year, hoping it will get her through and it worked. Powell was now considered a "walk on". Freshman year was the hardest year for Powell, not being used to college level training, she was barely making it through the workouts. However, after four to five months her body started to adjust to the training and the new running system. One day, while doing one of the easiest workouts, Caprice's knee gives out on her her meniscus was torn once again. She had surgery immediately and and soon found out that she would be red shirting. A disappointed Powell's mentality soon shifted after the news and tried to cope. However, the surgeon was able to see all of the built up scar tissue from the previous injury and removed as much as he could, ultimately helping Caprice with being able to get back on the track with her team, without any pain.

Although Caprice Powell was able to get back in motion with her teammates, she was facing something else that was holding back her potential. Because of the injury, Caprice's coach was extremely cautious and careful about everything that Caprice did. If the rest of the sprinting group would be given eight 200's in practice, Powell would get half of that. If the group got two minutes rest, Caprice would get three. Powell did not like this too much, causing her to feel as though she wasn't good enough to keep up with the other girls. "I felt like I was a nobody on the track, my coach never made me feel like I was good enough to be on her team" expressed Caprice. She would run behind girls who were "faster" than her because that's what she was told to do. "Stay right on them, because you will not be able to complete the workout." On one particular day, Caprice Powell got so frustrated with her coach during one of these workouts, she pushed herself so hard to the point where she ended up in the hospital, due to passing out from asthma. However, regardless of passing out; Caprice did this in hope to that her coach would finally take notice of her and her speed, but unfortunately it didn't work. Powell was trained like that, being told to stay behind for her first two years at Sacramento State and it got to her. "It made me feel like I wasn't good enough to compete with these others girls in our conference" explained Caprice. Not only did she feel inferior, but Caprice Powell also had to deal with seeing her friends and teammates get awarded with medals and make the podium, all while genuinely putting effort to be happy for them, but also wishing it was her. All of this was eye opening for Caprice. She was dealing with having a hard time trying to gather and figure out what her purpose was on the team, considering she wasn't really contributing. 

That following summer, Caprice Powell headed back home to train with her high school coach, Coach Vic. Throughout her training she worked on block starts and endurance, and was training with former college athletes who were much older. After her summer training, Caprice went back to Sac State and had a pretty decent year. She made it to the finals in both of her events in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash, even making it to the NCAA D1 Outdoor Championships. Caprice managed to snag the last post in the 200 ranking 25th, but she was thrilled. Although she did not make is past the first round, Caprice was just glad to be there. "I got exposed to pure talent that I had never seen, I got used to seeing and racing against girls only in the Big Sky conference.. so it was kind of like a track shock" explained Caprice while she laughs. Once Powell got back home from that experience, she had a completely different mindset about her sport. Caprice felt like she too could be like the girls that she watched race in her event. "I wanted more out of myself and I knew that Coach Raske would not be the one to push me so I vowed to myself that I would work my butt off and train like I had never trained before" she explained and did just that. Caprice Powell got a membership at 24 Hour Fitness and researched several ways to get her started with the process. Powell was well aware of the areas that needed more attention and strength. She knew what it would take for her to feel good, strong and able, so she tapped into all of her weaknesses. Monday through Friday, Caprice would be in the gym and on the track, with 20 minute runs every Sunday. She started eating better and drinking more water and even started going to prayer groups held by her godfather, where they would pray over her knee and body. These prayer groups are ultimately what kept Caprice Powell inspired and in tune with her belief throughout her process. 

By the time pre-season rolled around, Caprice Powell was feeling really good. She had gotten word that Sac State had brought on an additional sprints coach, Kimberly Graham-Miller, who had participated in the 1996 Summer Olympic games representing the United States on the 4x4 relay. Caprice was filled with excitement and could not wait to work with her. However, Coach Raske did not allow this due to utilizing the new coach to strictly focus on quarter milers. Caprice was annoyed and felt as through there was tension from the veteran coach due to how all of the athletes attracted to the new coach on staff, but that didn't stop Caprice on asking for advice. So, whenever she was at practice, Caprice Powell would go and poke at Coach Kim for tips on what she thought that Caprice could do to improve or do differently as an athlete, whenever Coach Raske wasn't looking. To Caprice, it seemed that Coach Kim paid more attention to her than Coach Raske had ever did and based off of the conversation she had with Coach Kim, Caprice could tell she was all about helping her become better. "She acknowledged my strengths and was able to pin point what my weaknesses were, immediately" explained Caprice. As Caprice Powell went through her training, she started to work on the little things Coach Kim had mentioned to her. Caprice also began to envision herself at the top of the podium and running races in her head, finishing first. Powell found herself at home looking up records at Sacramento State and checking out TFRRS to see who was returning in the Big Sky conference that she would be competing against. Caprice began writing out her goals in her journal, which she never liked doing because it was a scary thought for her that she could actually accomplish what she set out to do. "I was afraid of failing myself, but I wrote them anyway" Powell said. These goals she wrote out consisted of her becoming the 200m Big Sky Champion, breaking the 60m record at Sac State, but those were just the goals for the upcoming indoor season. 

Knowing that she struggled running the 60m dash due to how short of a running event it was, Caprice knew that she has to be realistic with herself, the record she was chasing was 7.55 and the fastest she had ever ran the event in was 7.70, but she took the challenge head on. "With God's grace and all the hard work and dedication I put forth I accomplished just that.. I was titled the 200m Indoor Champion and broke the school record running 7.53!" Caprice Powell explains with excitement and well deserved pride. "I cried.. I had never felt so powerful and self fulfilled." Caprice never once spoke of the goals she set for herself outside of her alone time and achieved everything all in silence. Powell was thankful and humbled by it all, she was left speechless and in disbelief, but extremely proud of herself.

Months later, outdoor season approaches and Caprice Powell's focus was to do the exact same thing as indoor. She continued to sneak tips in from Coach Kim, trained hard and stayed disciplined in her craft. This time around, her goals for outdoor were to be the 100m and 200m Big Sky Champion and to bring home three gold medals, keeping the 4x1 relay in mind. Caprice had never been so focused in her life. "I barely went out with friends, I made sure I had all my school work complete and out of the way before competition.. I had turned into a little house bug because I did not want anything to throw me off" she explained. While the tables started to turn as she started to develop into a next level athlete, Caprice started to see a switch in attention from her head coach as well. For once, the head coach was down Caprice Powell's back, and all of a sudden wanted to have meetings with Caprice to talk about her goals, how she was feeling and the expectations she had for Caprice. Powell slightly dismissed it all due to the fact that they had never done anything like this before and felt as though she was being nice because she "needed" Caprice to contribute to the team title. "She literally changed.." said Caprice. The coach began to treat Caprice Powell differently than before, as if she was better than others, which made Powell feel uncomfortable. Caprice had gotten so used to not having her coach show her attention in that way that it no longer affected her. However, little did Coach Raske know that Caprice Powell had her goals already in place and was two steps ahead. 

The day before the Big Sky Championships, Caprice laid in bed in her hotel room, closed her eyes and played all of her events in her head one by one. The day of competition, Powell accomplished every last one of her goals. She was titled Big Sky champion in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 4x1 relay. "The entire day felt like a movie it was crazy.." she explained. Then, a week later Caprice was graduating and on a plane headed to the NCAA Championships. Powell had qualified in both of her events, however by this time Caprice was pretty exhausted. She did not set any goals and didn't really have a plan, but she was going to just run and take in the moment. Caprice ran both races and made it to the second round in both, but that was as far as she got and was pretty happy with herself. Two and  a half months later, Caprice was back training and this time with her favorite coach, Coach Kim. The two talked about taking Caprice's talents to the next level and pursuing the Olympic trials. Caprice was so excited to start this new journey. However, about a month into her training something unexpected occurred. Coach Kim wanted Caprice to work on speed and power and she placed about 5 hurdles in front of her. Caprice managed to make it over two, but then clipped over the third one. In mid air, Caprice Powell's knee popped and she fell on it and knew right away that she had injured herself. Powell went to see a doctor about a week later to discover  that she had tore her left ACL and medial meniscus. Caprice was crushed. "I could not believe that this was happening..again!" Caprice said. "I questioned my faith and everything" she explained. Powell then set a date for her operation and began thinking of a master plan. She immediately set her mind on graduate school. "I knew I would have to find another job that would give me experience in my field and most importantly figure out what was going to help me rehab my injured knee" she explained. 

Caprice Powell went to the athletic trainers at Sac State, but they turned her away, saying that she would be a liability issue, which frustrated Caprice even more. Powell had spoken to several people about suggestions and ended up getting a hold of Tony Mikla; a well known physical therapist and strength coach.  Tony has trained and rehabilitated Olympic Gold Medalist, NBA, NFL and many more in the athletic professional world, this took Caprice by surprise. She then thought to herself that there wasn't a way that she would be able to afford him, but she was going to try anyway. After talking with Mike about her situation, he agreed to bring Caprice on board at a fair cost. Since the surgery, Mike and Caprice have been working, she has found a job and has applied to graduate school. As she transitions through this new part in her journey, she's taking care of off the track duties while learning to cope with a minor setback, but still preparing for her comeback post injury.