Damien Odle overcame serious injuries to continue his collegiate track and field javelin competition at the national championships.
One of the true measures of an athlete is how they handle challenges both mentally and physically.
Damien Odle, a Kiowa County High School graduate, is competing today, June 6, at the NCAA Division 1 Track and Field National Championship in Eugene, Ore, a member of the Wichita State University Track and Field Team.
Odle, who competes in javelin, expects to do well at the championships and has his sights set on the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, said his father Bill Odle, who hopes Damien’s story will inspire people who are met with adversity.
But the road to the National Championships was hampered by some very serious injuries that had the potential to end his track career.
In December 2015 he suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle that laid him up for eight weeks. He recovered and continued to compete until October 2016 when he suffered a season ending ACL tear followed by complete ACL, MCL, LCL surgery in November 2016 that had him in rehabilitation through July 2017.
During this recovery time, Odle had multiple conversations with his son about doubt, fear and his future career.
When Damien said “I think I am done,” his father’s hear sank and he asked why he felt that way. Damien said “I am afraid that my knee will give out, I want to be able to walk when I get older. I hurt all the time and (I’m) tired of hurting.”
Odle told his son he understood but said “let’s put it on a platter, send it up to God for strength, guidance, repair and whatever he decides, we will do.”
Damien agreed and got back to work getting ready to compete. He got to work and in the 2017-2018 season, God had answered prayer and Damien was excited to compete. Through all the training, pain, sweat, tears and fears, Damien was going strong when he suffered another injury in March 2018 at the Texas relays were he suffered a groin injury and he was out of competition from March to May 2018.
Odle said Damien was starting to sink into depression. So once again they turned to God and asked for guidance and the best decision for Damien’s future. Once he was able, Damien continued to train. At the ACC Championship May 11-13 in 2018, Damien wasn’t sure he was ready to throw so they prayed to God. Odle said God’s answer was that it would be OK and to go ahead and throw. It would be sore but it would only last for a few days.
Sure enough, Damien threw that day, made finals and re-aggravated his groin but the pain only lasted a few days.
At the NCAA Division 1 Track and Field West Preliminaries Damien felt great and was excited to compete. He finished No.10 in the top 12 and advanced to the National Championships and will compete today, June 6. This is his second time competing in the national championship, Odle said.
Damien’s journey has proven to be an inspiration for little kids and high school students. He wants to help young athletes make decisions about their life especially when they are facing injury.
Damien faced a lot of difficult decisions and had to deal with a lot of emotions but in the end, his decision to give it to God and let him take care of it made the difference in Damien’s life, Odle said.
Damien is a fifth year student at Wichita State University and will return to WSU in the fall to start a master’s degree program in business sports management. Ultimately, he wants to manage a sports team. Damien’s parents are Bill Odle and Kristi Cooper. He has a sister Skyler (Odle) Watson and a brother Taylor.
Wichita State has been a home for many small town Kansas athletes and many small-town stars like Odle reach All-American status there.