The worst news Matsen Dziedzic received on the football field in the fall has resulted in good news for the Libertyville senior this spring.
After Dziedzic suffered a concussion with three games remaining in the football season, doctors declared his season over. That wasn't exactly the way the highly recruited offensive lineman wanted to end his high school career. But it forced him to think.
"It was a bad, nasty experience with the hospital trips and doctor's appointments," Dziedzic said. "And it was probably my first real football injury. I'd never broken a bone or anything before. It set me back. I was thinking about the (scholarship) offers, mulling it over for a month or so. And that's when I decided to stick with track."
What at one time was a fall-back sport is now Dziedzic's ticket to college athletics. He will take his shot put talents to Illinois this fall, but first he has some business to attend to — this week's Class 3A Buffalo Grove sectional meet and the state meet in two weeks.
That's where Dziedzic proved his worth last year. He said everything "clicked" — mentally and physically — late in his junior year, when he finished second in 3A in Charleston.
"Parker Rohde is his throwing coach, and he does a great job finding the kids in the school he sees are hard workers, but also the kind who have that build and body type to be a good thrower," Libertyville track coach Jason Schroeder said. "He found Matsen, and he believed in him. But it wasn't until last year when he really started coming on. He just started getting it. I wouldn't say he came out of nowhere. But he's worked hard to get to where he's at."
He followed up his junior year with a solid senior season that most recently included shattering a 36-year-old school record when he recorded a throw of 62 feet, 7 1/2 inches at the Lake County meet on the first weekend of May.
"Once I started working out a lot more, everything started to click," Dziedzic said. "It became more of a goal than an activity. It was kind of like if you're doing something in school, and there's a math problem you try for weeks to get but you just can't. Then one day you wake up, and it's absolutely clear. It was the same with the shot. It came down to practice, practice, close your eyes and let it go."
Months after the injury forced him to alter his college plans, he will head into this weekend's sectional as one of the state's best.
"Yeah, it's very weird," he said. "It was the thing you never really expected to happen. Things take their course. You just never know."