Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz: East athlete is tougher than discus

Friday the 13th, Haleigh Lewis is convinced, is truly a lucky day for her. She can't cite any examples of her good fortune on that typically edgy day, but insists she isn't bothered by the day's auspicious lore.

Not even after the Friday the 13th of this month, when she had five teeth knocked out of her head by a flying discus that crashed into her face just above her upper lip during the City League track and field meet at Northwest High.

That is pretty bad luck, you would think. Her lips are still swollen to twice their normal size and there are almost as many teeth missing as there are still in place.

"Everybody gets so superstitious on Friday the 13th,'' Lewis said, speaking in the kind of shaky voice you'd expect for someone who took a discus — weighing 2 pounds, 2 ounces — off the face.

Remarkably, Lewis, a senior at Northeast Magnet School who competes for East in athletics, was back in uniform Friday for a Class 6A regional at Heights, throwing the discus, heaving the shot put and tossing the javelin, her favorite. She qualified for state in all three events.

The force of the discus, which was thrown errantly by Bishop Carroll's Emily Leland, did not put Lewis on the ground.

Did not.

She wasn't aware at first of what had happened. It wasn't until some bystanders asked her to get on the ground that she understood she had been hit by a discus.

"I think I turned to some random guy and said, 'Wow, that hurt,' " Lewis said.

Almost before saying anything, Lewis wants it understood she doesn't blame Leland.

"It was an accident,'' she said. "It was not her fault. I want to get that point across, for sure. Everybody around there felt bad that it happened.''

Leland, who didn't want to comment for this column, was, according to Pam Kampsen, one of the first to get to Lewis. She tore off part of her track jersey and Lewis used it to help contain the bleeding from her mouth.

"The thing about track is that even though they're competing, they're like a family within a family out there,'' said Kampsen, a business partner of Lewis' mother, Margi, who attends all of Lewis' track meets. "They all know each other, they all hug each other. It's a unique situation.''

Lewis wasn't much in the mood for hugs after the accident. She kept bugging people — including paramedics who were on the scene quickly — about competing in the javelin. Finally, people were able to convince her that she needed to get to the hospital and that there would be other days to throw the javelin.

Lewis had just made the first of her three discus throws and was walking back toward the pit after picking up her discus. She was out of bounds, of course, and thinking about a million different things. She said she dropped her discus, bent down to pick it up, and shortly thereafter was hit by the errant discus.

"I'm just so glad my doctors are letting me participate in regionals,'' Lewis said Thursday. "They know how much I wanted to do this. If I had missed out I would have been so mad. It's unexplainable how mad I would have been.''

Lewis is a good-natured kid who will play volleyball in the fall at Butler Community College in El Dorado. She is tall and sturdy and it looks like it would take a lot to knock her down.

You would have thought a discus would have done the trick.

But after being hit, she just stood there trying to figure out what had just happened. When she put her hands to her mouth, she finally realized how much blood was flowing down her chin.

It will take several procedures this summer to cap the teeth that were damaged and to replace those that were lost. Lewis can't eat her favorite food — tacos from the Taco Shop — for at least four months. She's going to be grouchy and irritable about that, she knows.

"I did have some pizza the other night,'' Lewis said. "It was soooo good.''

But a trick to eat. Lewis has to use only the left side of her mouth for biting and chewing because there just aren't enough teeth in the rest of her mouth to do either.

Even so, she has not missed any of the graduation activities associated with this time of the year. She attended the Senior Breakfast and graduation at Northeast Magnet and has been socially active with her friends.

"The swelling has gone way down from where it was a few days ago,'' Lewis said. "You're lucky to see me like this.''

She never lost consciousness. There are no concussion issues. Other than a bunch of missing and damaged teeth and some swelling and bruising, Lewis came out of what could have been a tragedy with her body and humor in tact.

"I didn't cry except when I found out I couldn't finish the meet,'' Lewis said. "Then I started crying.''

Her oral surgeon has told Lewis there won't even be any scars, that once the teeth are replaced she'll look as good as new.

So maybe she was lucky on Friday the 13th. It defies the spirit of the day.