COUNCIL BLUFFS — Jordan Mundt keeps a photo album on her Facebook page.
It has a warning sign as the cover and reads: “This gallery contains graphic images that some viewers may find disturbing.”
The photos, taken by her mother, serve as a visual reminder of Sept. 13. That night, Mundt crumbled to the ground with a frightening ankle injury that threatened her high school athletic career.
Thursday, seven-plus months later, the Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson senior will compete for a return trip to the state track meet in a Class 4-A qualifying meet in Waukee.
No matter the outcome of the race, Mundt has already won by being in the event.
“The fact that Jordan’s even running is miraculous, in my opinion,” Lady Jackets coach Pat Nepple said.
Mundt recalls complaining about her ankle hurting on the night of her injury.
T.J. had two volleyball matches at an MRAC quadrangular at Sioux City East. She played through some pain in the first, but she had no clue what was to come in the second.
“The first serve over the net got set up, and I went to hit,” Mundt said. “I went up, I came down and I just felt it. I don’t even know how to explain the feeling.”
Having what she called “a blackout moment,” Mundt is unaware of what exactly happened. She doesn’t know if she landed on another player’s foot or just came down awkwardly.
Mundt was on the floor holding her ankle. Her teammates were telling her not to look at it.
“I was convinced, when I saw it, that it was broken,” she said.
It wasn’t. It was much worse.
Mundt tore three ligaments on the outside of her left ankle. The bottom of her foot was facing her right leg at nearly a 90-degree angle. Her ankle bone broke through her skin.
She didn’t really cry from the pain, saying she was in shock. But when she realized that she wouldn’t be able to finish her final volleyball season, she couldn’t hold the tears back.
On the way to the hospital in the ambulance, she began to think of track and called Nepple.
The coach knew who was calling that night, but he could decipher little else.
“She was crying. It was like 10:30 at night. I was like, ‘What are you saying?’” Nepple said. “She was sobbing. We ended up getting cut off so I couldn’t understand what she had said.”
Moments later, Mundt’s mom called back to fill him in.
Mundt said doctors called her injury a medical mystery.
“They’re not really sure how it happened,” she said. “With an injury like this and the bone coming through the skin, it actually should’ve broken. My mom and I were calling it a compound dislocation. There’s not really a name for it.”
When she arrived at the hospital in Sioux City, Mundt didn’t have a dorsal pulse. Her ankle needed to be put back into place or she would’ve been in danger of losing her foot.
The torn ligaments were also sutured back together during the surgery, in which Mundt wasn’t under anesthesia. She said she was given medication for memory loss instead.
“I was awake during the entire thing, but I’ll never remember,” she said. “My mom’s told me the stories, and she said it was absolutely horrible.”
Her mom also took the pictures of the ankle before surgery. Mundt didn’t see them at first.
“Finally, I just got too curious and I looked at them,” she said. “They weren’t as horrible as I thought. They’re crazy to look at.”
Mundt spent the day after her surgery in the hospital and was released the following morning. Her stay was rough, she said, because she was mourning volleyball and concerned about her track future.
She wanted to know when she would compete again.
“It was really hard because nobody could give me an answer,” she said.
After spending weeks of painful time on crutches with her foot in a splint, walking boot and cast, Mundt was finally given the OK to begin running in small intervals in December.
She was determined to be back to full speed by the start of track season.
“I wasn’t letting that go because, in the end, I didn’t have my volleyball season,” she said. “My track season was all I had left. And I need it. I worked as hard as I could to get back.”
She had a long way to go.
Mundt was among the state’s top hurdlers last year. She won her third straight Missouri River Activities Conference title in the 100 hurdles and qualified for state. Her best time of 15.12 was the 14th fastest in all of Iowa.
Nepple said his senior cleared her first hurdle in January. She was back on the track by the time the season started, though she wasn’t quite herself.
“It’s definitely gotten better, but the beginning of the season was tough,” Mundt said. “My ankle wasn’t back to its normal self. It was almost like starting hurdles over. It’s kind of had its ups and downs.”
Among the ups was a victory in her specialty race at the Council Bluffs Lewis Central girls meet at Iowa Western. It was her only win in the 100 hurdles this season. Among the downs are numerous races that she started well, but didn’t have enough to finish strong like she had in the past.
At her peak, Mundt was three-stepping her way through all 10 hurdles cleanly. This season, she had made it through eight without switching legs just once before to last week’s MRAC meet in Sioux City. And in that race in Clarinda, she crashed.
Having confidence, Mundt said, is her key to success. Nepple thinks that she’s getting there.
“Ultimately, I think her speed is really close to what it was,” he said. “I think it’s just mentally being able to overcome. She’s just got to turn her legs over and she’ll be fine.
“She’s a three-stepping hurdler. She’s not a four-stepper. She’s too fast for that.”
Mundt came up short in her bid for a four-year MRAC hurdles sweep last Thursday, finishing second behind Sioux City Heelan’s Mackenzie Geary at Olsen Stadium. In doing so, she three-stepped all 10 hurdles for the first time in an individual race this season.
She also did it earlier in the day while anchoring T.J.’s shuttle hurdle team to a win.
It was a monumental day in Mundt’s comeback, though she wanted the fourth title.
“As upsetting as it is, I can’t be disappointed with what happened because I did the best I’ve done all year,” she said. “It was my fastest time. And that’s really what I came out to do.”
Mundt’s adjusted time from Thursday, when fully automated timing was used, was 15.84 seconds. That was nearly a full second faster than her previous best (16.80) this spring and moved her from 173rd on the state’s all-class list to No. 50.
“For her to come out and do what she’s done is pretty amazing, really,” Nepple said.
Thursday’s state qualifying meet will give Mundt another challenge. Some of the top hurdlers in 4-A are competing at the event and only the top two finishers automatically advance. Other qualifiers, based on time, will be announced the following day.
After her performance in Sioux City, Mundt believes that she is ready.
“I’m back, and this gives me more confidence for next week,” she said. “I was worried. But I have that confidence back, especially after running all 10 hurdles twice. I know I can do it.”