Star athlete/student in serious condition after pole vaulting accident

By: Nick McGurk Email
By: Nick McGurk Email

At a track meet last Tuesday in Valparaiso, 18-year-old Courtney Brinckman fell on her head while pole vaulting.

The high school senior, who beat her own school record on the pole vault just before the accident happened, is now at Illinois Medical Center in Chicago after brain swelling. Family say the most dangerous days are probably behind her, and that she will likely live.

In the classroom, Brinckman is a stand-out: a 4.0 student and class valedictorian who took challenging classes throughout her four years of high school.

"If there were ever the golden student, Courtney's the one," said Linda Meyer, a guidance counselor at Michigan City High School.

On the track, she's a record-setter. Just outside the gates of Michigan City High School's track, a sign boasts school records.

Courtney Brinckman's name is there among many others. Brinckman, once a star gymnast, transitioned to track and field after starting high school.

Like just about everything she tried, friends and family say, she succeeded.

"You tell her to do something and she does it 10 times better than you would ever expect," said Meghan Quinlan, one of her best friends. "Or than you could have done it yourself," added Katrina Edling, another best friend.

Last Tuesday, after beating her own record, she went for a practice attempt. That's when she slipped, fell backwards and hit her head.

"Everyone was just thinking about her more than anything else," said Mark Malz, one of Courtney's teachers.

For the past week, students and faculty have been coping without Courtney in class.

"It's May, and she was so close to reaping all the benefits of her hard work that it was just really devastating for all of us," said Meyer.

"Courtney's got some rare talents and we only hope that she'll just recover perfectly," said Meyer.

Brinckman earned a full-tuition scholarship to Indiana University in Bloomington. Her father says she plans to study pre-med.

As of Tuesday, family say she is being kept heavily sedated, almost in a coma, to keep her brain from getting too stimulated.

She could be in the hospital for another two months, say family.

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