Penn track's Picciallo triumphs against adversity
Freshman sensation has thrived following major injury in high school
· March 13, 2013, 9:35 pm
Since her freshman year in high school, when she first picked up a shot put, Theresa Picciallo has rarely taken a break. Even an elbow injury in her senior year hasn’t stopped her from breaking records.
Picciallo has been a revelation for the Quakers as they look to compete for an Ivy Championship outdoors. The Upper Saddle River, N.J., native needed only two collegiate meets to break Penn’s 15-year old indoor shot put record, which she did with a throw of 14.11 meters in early January.
But while Picciallo came to Penn with a tremendous resume, it was an injury in her senior year of high school that could have potentially derailed her.
“I saw her last year hurt at Penn Relays, just come out here and put on a show,” throws coach Tony Tenisci said. “It was unbelievable and it was killing her arm. She’s a really tough kid and she’s young.”
Even after cutting down on meets in the spring, Picciallo still managed to win the New Jersey State Championships. She had to get surgery in June to remove a one-inch bone spur in her throwing elbow.
Recovery was a long road.
“Once the surgery happened, I couldn’t pick up shot. I couldn’t lift, I couldn’t pick up my arm. I was nervous,” Picciallo said, who endured three months of physical therapy. “When I got here, coach Tenisci was so understanding and that was comforting.”
She slowly worked her way back to throwing: first using a two-pound shot, then progressing to a four-pounder and then a six-pounder, which is used in competition. Although she felt slight pain when she began throwing at the beginning of the year, it has subsided, and Picciallo is now thriving.
“Coming into the season there was a little bit of pain there, but the main pain came from throwing discus,” Picciallo said. “I remember when we came outside I finally threw one, and it didn’t hurt and kept throwing and now we’re in March and it still hasn’t hurt.”
Apart from her injury, competing in college has still been an adjustment. In high school, Picciallo dominated her competition. Most girls couldn’t throw within five feet of her bombs during meets in her senior year.
“My senior year it was doing it for [me], but it’s hard when the adrenaline is not there,” Picciallo said of not having tough competition week to week. “But coming into college is the exact opposite because there is so much competition and it was difficult to deal with. One meet at Penn State, girls were standing and throwing father than I could.”
Although Picciallo has tasted early success, finishing third in the Indoor Heptagonal Championships just a few weeks ago, she and Tenisci are still taking her progress week by week, meet by meet.
“I’ve waited a long time for a girl in this event of her standard, and she’s met all of my hopes,”
Tenisci said. ”She’s a fantastic athlete and person.”