The body of an athlete must work in perfect unison. The feet pivot, the spine twists, the hands release. And the brain choreographs it all in split-second precision.
Allison Hostetler's brain is gifted. A 4.0 student, class president, valedictorian, star of the school play. But there was a time, two years ago, when Allison's brain let her down.
It started with headaches, sophomore year at Fairfield. So bad she couldn't see straight. Allison had a brain tumor, and it was growing.
"Like if you would go straight down (from the top of my head), like right in the middle, and like right through the side, (is where the tumor is), I think," Allison said.
“You knew at that point that life was going to change a lot," said Allison’s mom, Cindy.
Allison spent nearly three months of her junior year getting daily radiation treatments.
“And so every day I had this (mask) strapped on my face,” Allison said. “And every day I would come out looking like a waffle, because it was that tight on my face."
While she was in treatment, Allison's brain did something else. It came up with an idea.
"I've seen people lose all their hair, and they want to wear something on their head to help them ease their uncomfortable feelings about appearing different,” Allison said. “So that kind of can help. Also, I say, 'When you wear this hat, know that someone thinks about you, and know that someone really is caring for you. Even though I don't know you, I'm caring for you.'"
Allison crocheted about 50 hats during her three months in treatment. Since then, she's made about 50 more.
"I call down to Bloomington where I had radiation,” Allison said, “and they say, 'Well, we have lots of kids,' or, 'You know, we have a lot of boys down here.' Oh, I'll make lots of boys hats."
In return, Allison has received dozens of pictures from her hat recipients.
"Sometimes I catch myself thinking, 'Oh, I wonder who's going to wear this hat.' I wonder if I'll ever get to see the picture of this hat actually on somebody," Allison said.
Which certainly beats wondering whether she'll beat the tumor. Doctors believe they found Allison's before it caused any major problems. And the radiation treatments have been termed a success.
"It was like the size of a walnut,” Allison said. “And now it's like the size of a small grape. So it's definitely shrunk quite a bit."
Just a few months after her last radiation treatment, Allison returned to track and field.
“That was actually one thing that I think helped her recover quickly, because she maintained her activity level and exercise,” Cindy said. “But now, to actually go out and watch her throw the discus, it was very meaningful. Because it was like, wow, last year at this time, I didn't know if she'd be able to do this."
The tumor isn't completely gone. It may never be. But the fact that she's back competing months later isn't the amazing thing about Allison's story. The amazing thing is that she sees this as a good thing that happened to her.
“Being a Christian, I really feel that there was a reason. I try to look at that. And now, from being back, I'm starting to see the reasons why I was down there,” Allison said. :I've always wanted to be a nurse. I feel like I have a lot of personal experience now, that in the future when I share it with my patients, I can relate to them so much more.
"I wouldn't trade my experiences of what I've had, just so I could place better in a competition. I feel that it's made me a better person."
"The remarkable thing about Allison is that she's not remarkable because of the tumor,” said her coach, Darin Holsopple. “That has just kind of allowed people to see how remarkable she is."
Allison's brain has been through a lot. But maybe the real credit, ought to go to her heart. It's the heart of an athlete. Undefeated.