EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- Although Central is the closest school to Eau Claire, Dutch senior Catcher Caitlyn Meyer may have traveled the furthest distance to get there.

On April 9, 2012, Meyer suffered an ACL injury that required surgery. She was also in need of shoulder surgery in the offseason. Following two major surgeries and extensive rehab, Meyer was astonishingly able to play in the 2013 opener on March 8, 2013, in Columbus, Ga.

“The expectation was that I was going to come back in full force. There wasn’t going to be a limitation,” Meyer said. “My teammates made sure I never slacked or got down when it got hard and I need to thank my teammates for never letting me down.”

“She tore her ACL and already had a shoulder injury and had both surgeries. This kid comes back and plays,” Central head coach George Wares said. “You want to look at the real athletes. They are sitting right next to me. They aren’t playing professional.”

In her first plate appearance in 11 months, Meyer stepped into the box against nationally ranked East Texas Baptist and was hit by the pitch.

“It has always been my thing. I stand in close, get hit, get on base and we bring in a runner to get some speed on the bases,” Meyer stated, “It was just kind of a joke and a good way to start the season.”

A few innings later, her first official at bat arrived as she delivered a base hit to right field. A few more Dutch hits and Meyer crossed the plate from third on a Katie Canney single as if nothing happened in the offseason.

Following ACL surgery, rehab can take anywhere from eight months to a full year with the average recovery time around nine months for competitive sports. This means the athlete ends their current season and recovery will carry into preparation for the next season.

Despite the mental and physical challenges in just getting back to the field, Meyer put together a remarkable season, being named first-team All-IIAC, first team All-Midwest Region and named Iowa Conference Position Player of the Year.

Meyer is hitting .379 with 28 RBIs, while leading the Dutch in home runs (8), slugging (.660) and has the top fielding percentage among starters (.986).

In the national finals, Meyer added a pair of hits and a couple big defensive plays for the Dutch. In the elimination game, she delivered a big RBI single, which put Central ahead 1-0 in the top of the fourth. Texas-Tyler battled back to win 5-4 in an extra-inning thriller to end the season’s remarkable career for the Dutch.

“I’m never going to get to coach this person again,” Wares said. “And that’s pretty hard. And that’s really what it’s all about.”

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And step-by-step, Meyer worked her way back to the lineup before earning Iowa Conference position player of the year accolades and leading her team to the national finals. 

“We enjoyed the experience. We have overcome so much as a team with Jordan [Overland] and Abbey [Strayjack] coming back from injuries,” Meyer said about her teammates, “We love each other like a family. I play with the greatest group of girls in the nation.”

For Meyer, the journey back to the field was incredible and the run to the national finals will be embedded in her memory forever and serve as a strong reminder for all that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.