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Kankakee Valley's Catherine Cavinder

Kankakee Valley's Catherine Cavinder missed her sophomore track season and junior cross country season after an ACL tear during last year's basketball sectional.

John J. Watkins, The Times

When Cat Cavinder tore her ACL in the sectional in 2017, she felt the usual "pop" that athletes talk about with the injury.

In this case, Cavinder thought it was her hamstring.

A little rest, she figured, would take care of the problem.

When she learned she'd torn the knee ligament, she knew she'd lost her sophomore track and field season at Kankakee Valley.

After surgery last spring and missing both track and cross country, Cavinder returned in time to run the point for the Kougars' basketball season.

The catch was, she stepped on the court at the same speed she'd left it.

"Everyone else was scared and expected me to be scared, but I'm not scared out there," the junior said. "Once I got back in the groove of things, I wasn't scared."

"I was worried an injury like that would be mental coming back. You get that sometimes, athletes are unsure and untested," K.V. coach Ryan Myers said. "But she came back in typical Cat Cavinder fashion. I don't think she thought twice about it."

Cavinder quickly took over the sole role as the point guard, and will lead the Kougars into Saturday's game against Lake Central at the Class 4A LaPorte Regional. Last year, she split the role, and taking it as her own this season has only added to her poise.

"This year, I'm a lot more comfortable with the ball and I feel like I can take more risks," Cavinder said. "I have a lot more confidence this year."

Cavinder averages 3.2 steals and 2.7 assists per game along with her 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds.

She notched a double-double in the sectional semifinal against Michigan City, scoring 11 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. She's had five assists twice — against Valparaiso and Hanover Central in the regular season — with sharp-shooter Lindsey Stokes to dish to.

"She just has that quiet confidence on the court," Myers said. "She's not boastful by any means, she's not flashy, she just gets after it. Her energy and her level of play is unbelievable."

Cavinder reached the state finals in cross country as a sophomore and in the 800 meters in track during her freshman season.

Her endurance on the court can be credited to her time running, Myers said.

"When we were doing preseason conditioning this year, she really wasn't 100 percent cleared yet, and one of the things we asked everyone to do was run a mile or a mile-and-a-half," Myers said. "I didn't see her take off, but sure enough a few minutes later she was the first one out there. That's who she is."


Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.