VT cadet looks to future after miraculous recovery

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Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 28 – No entry: Elmer fell from the upper area of the cascade falls into the freezing water below. Photo: Zack Perhach

by Zack Perhach–

The last thing Christian Elmer, a Virginia Tech student and Cadet, remembers before falling off the top of the Cascades waterfall in Giles County Virginia, was his friend lunging to grab him. The next thing he remembers was being pulled out of the water, laying on his back waiting for the slick water rescue team to come to help him.

That team would arrive three hours later and would evacuate Elmer by helicopter to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The doctors would tell him his injuries: his right hip, both elbows, and his neck had broken during the 69-foot fall.

“I thought I lost my scholarship, my job in the army, and then I thought I might not be able to walk again,” said Elmer.

The recovery process for Elmer included multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy. Friends and family raised thousands of dollars to cover his medical expenses. His recovery progressed quickly, and within four months Elmer had begun lifting weights in the gym.

To get cleared for service, Elmer had to compile a medical report from all 12 doctors he saw during his recovery. He sent the 1,300-page document to the Army Surgeon General. Within the month he submitted it, Elmer had received the verdict.

“I got the email so fast I thought ‘there’s no way I got approved if they’re replying this fast,’” said Elmer, “but my medical determination was approved, so I’m good to serve.”


The Army clearly defines the medical conditions that can limit or disqualify a person from service. Elmer’s main concerns were his elbows and hips, both of which the army has specific ranges of motion that are deemed acceptable.

With his medical determination now cleared, Elmer’s eyes are set on his future in the Army. Just this month, he received his assignment as an explosive ordnance disposal or EOD technician. A job he had a 5-7 percent chance of receiving. Elmer had to go through multiple interviews to join the EOD team, and he’s excited to join a small community in the Army.

“I had to have a good attitude from the start and I knew that,” said Elmer, “I truly believe that your mind and your body are so connected that if you have a bad attitude, you won’t heal as fast or as well as you could.”

Elmer is set to graduate from Virginia Tech in December. The New Jersey native will then be working in Richmond as an EOD technician in the summer.

The old Tiger Woods is never coming back

ATLANTA, Ga., Sept. 24 – Tiger is back – Eldrick Tiger Woods fought his way to his first victory since 2013. A 5-year gap that included multiple back surgeries. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images


by Zack Perhach–

Here is my prediction for Tiger Woods’ next season: there will be a time, maybe within the first week or so, where Tiger will hit a 5-iron. The ball will jump high into the air, the crowd will begin yelling. Eldrick Tiger Woods, eyes still locked on the ball, will begin marching. Walking with confidence toward the hole, following his shot. He’ll pull the club down to his waist, all the while still marching forward.

In that moment, it will all feel real for Tiger Woods fans. Their one true question will be answered: is Tiger back? For those fans, it will feel like he’s back. Each and every one of them will believe again in that moment.

But the reality is, Tiger isn’t back. At least not the same Tiger, but that might be a good thing.

The Tiger Woods of old was a new breed of golfer. He was athletic, hit the ball far, and he drove his game down his opponents’ throats. He thrived in scenarios with somebody chasing him.

That was the Tiger who held the World Golf Rankings #1spot; a spot he held for 683 weeks. That is not a typo. Tiger was the world’s best golfer for almost 13 years until he wasn’t.

Today’s Tiger returned to golf ranked 1,199th in the world. He worked hard, and through the grind made his way to the 13th spot in just one season. He even recorded his first win since 2013.

The Tiger that won the 2018 Tour Championship was not the same Tiger who won all those other tournaments in years past. When he sunk the final putt to win, he didn’t pump his fist, he didn’t throw his ball in the air, he didn’t do any of that. Instead, he paused, took a deep breath, and hid his face as he tried to hold back tears.

Eldrick Tiger Woods’ game is changing. He’s older, slower, and less flexible. Despite that, he still owes the sport more. His last exit wasn’t the one a king deserves. Old Tiger is not back, but the new Tiger is here, playing the game for the game’s sake.

Big heels to fill in VT Athletics

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BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 10 – Department of Intercollegiate Athletics – Desiree Reed-Francois spent three years with the Hokies before accepting the AD job at UNLV. Photo: Zack Perhach

by Zack Perhach–

The Virginia Tech Athletics Department lost one of their key members this past year, as Desiree Reed-Francois stepped into the role of Athletic Director at University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Reed-Francois worked as Deputy Athletic Director under Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock. She was hired by Babcock twice; once at Cincinnati and again and Virginia Tech. One of Reed-Francois most critical accomplishments was the hiring of Virginia Tech Head Football Coach Justin Fuente while maintaining Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster on staff.

Despite this success story, the landscape for women in collegiate athletics, especially at the level of athletic director, is bleak. Just five women are currently in the role of AD at a Power 5 (ACC, SEC, Pac 12, Big 12, B10) conference. That is five out of 65.power 5_AD map

Andra Scaliti, a Virginia Tech student-athlete and member of Collegiate Women in Business, says that the problems women face in the workplace are similar in most corporate environments.

“Women in the world of sports specifically can experience overwhelming setbacks from long-held stigmas,” says Scaliti.

Patti Phillips, the CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports, says that athletic departments looking to hire need to look at the numbers according to Pew Research. Women Leaders in College Sports is an organization whose main purpose is to draw attention to this disparity and help promote women into positions of influence in the world of collegiate sports.

“Intercollegiate athletics has traditionally been a boys’ club, and not reflective of the population as a whole, or even the population on college campuses,” says Phillips, “There is still sexism, racism, and homophobia in this male-dominated industry. That is not always because the person at the top is mean-spirited…there’s an intrinsic bias in business to preserve the status quo.”

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In the world of collegiate athletics, the status quo, according to Harvard Business Review, often leaves out women. Despite just five of 65 AD jobs in the Power 5 being filled by women, that figure represents progress. Just a few years ago, that number was lower and a few years before that it was zero. Stories like Reed-Francois prove that while the progress is slow, collegiate athletics are moving in the right direction.