Emily Gale is returning to her statechampionship form as she approaches the most important part of the year. Her 11’7″ victory at the Mirmar Invitational last weekend combined with a 12’1″ vault at the Mustang Invitational two weeks ago has earned her the title of Pole Vault City Athlete of the Week. With the Florida Relays and the Statetournament rapidly approaching, Emily has chosen the right time of the year to return to her old form.
In 2011 at the 4A State Meet Emily came from behind to win the state championship with a personal best vault of 12′. Later that summer, Emily finished as runner-up at the AAU Jr. Olympic National Championships in the 15-16 division with a vault of 12′. Emily began the season with a vault of 11’4″ at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno back in January. Her outdoor season has been very steady with vaults between 11′ and 12’1″. Emily will be faced with yet another tough opponent if she is to win another statechampionship. Megan Walker, a senior from Port St. Joe in the panhandle, has a personal best of 12’6″. Emily transferred from Cypress Bay, a 4A school, to Calvary Christian, a 1A school during the summer which matched her up with Megan for the state championship showdown in May. The Florida Relays this weekend will be the first head to head matchup for Gale and Walker and then they will meet up again in three weeks, pending both qualify, at the 1A State Meet in Jacksonville at the University of North Florida.
As much of an obstacle as the State Championships may seem to most, it pales in comparison to the battle that Emily and her sister Amanda have already fought. During the summer after their freshman year, they were diagnosed with CVID, Common Variable Immune Deficiency.
- Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), also called hypogammaglobulinemia or adult-onset hypogammaglobulinemia, is a relatively common primary immune deficiency. The disorder is characterized by a lack of antibody-producing B-cells or plasma cells, low levels of most or all immunoglobulin isotypes and recurrent bacterial infections.
- CVID is considered the most prevalent type of primary immunodeficiency. Primary immunodeficiencies are disorders that occur because part of the body’s immune system does not function properly. Unlike secondary immunodeficiencies, which are caused by factors (like viruses or chemotherapy) outside of the immune system, primary immunodeficiencies are caused by intrinsic or genetic defects in the immune system.
- While the exact incidence rate of CVID is unknown, researchers estimate that about one out of 50,000 individuals develop the disorder. Most patients develop the disorder between the ages of 20 and 50. Only about 20% of patients are diagnosed during childhood. CVID affects an equal number of males and females.
During the winter of the same year, doctors also found an 8×11 mm hole in Emily’s heart. Doctors performed a procedure to implant a device in her heart to help close the hole. The procedure wasn’t completely successful because a residual hole remained. Differening opinions from heart specialists included the possibility of open heart surgery. During this entire time Emily was having to take anti-seizure medications to cope with the side effects of the implanted device. Upon the suggestion of open heart surgery, Emily requested that she be allowed to finish the track season. Unbeknownst to her, that season would end with a come from behind state championship. The hole in Emily’s heart has healed but she still suffers from mitrovalve prolapse. The twins have to undergo a painful procedure each month to reintroduce platelets into the blood supply. Even though this disease has weakened the girls, it hasn’t weakened their resolve. If there is a way to succeed they will find it and they will do it together. I have never met siblings that are as close as Emily and Amanda. If you’ve ever met them then you understand and probably consider yourself fortunate to have met such special twins. Their parents, Ingrid and RonGale, have been a huge force in the twins’ success. They have endured the medical struggles right along side of the girls, always providing support and direction. Although Emily and Amanda no longer run the hurdles as a track event, they will have to continue to clear medical hurdles for the rest of their lives.
In my 20 plus years of coaching I have met some remarkable individuals with remarkable stories. I have never met anyone, better yet twins that have affected my life in such a positive way. When I get tired from work or coaching, I think of what these young ladies endure on a regular basis and it reminds me that tired is just a state of mind. Whether Emily repeats as the Florida Pole Vault State Champion or not, she will always be a champion in our eyes. Good luck at the Florida Relays and your quest to repeat as statechampion.