FORTVILLE — Rachel Camargo had no idea how much work went on behind the scenes.
Whether before a game or after a practice, there are more thankless tasks than she ever imagined possible. From packing ice bags to filling the water cooler, the senior never gave any of them a second thought while on the court with the Mt. Vernon girls basketball team — until now.
Out for the season since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament the first day of practice in October, Camargo refused to let her injury keep her from the game she first became “addicted” to in the eighth grade. Instead, she’s found solace by staying involved.
The big question initially, however, was how?
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“After she got hurt, she asked me, ‘coach what is going to be my responsibility this year?’ And I said, ‘what do you mean?’ That’s just who she is. She really wanted some way to be a part of the team other than just being there,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Doud said. “She wanted something to say she was part of the team.”
Despite not being in uniform on game nights, Camargo has remained an active participant as a team manager and one of the Marauders’ staunchest supporters on the sideline.
“I’ve kind of learned what it takes to be a manager this year, doing the laundry and helping with everything I can. It’s actually a lot more than I thought it was,” Camargo said. “I definitely took that stuff for granted as a player.”
The transition required some adjustment, Camargo admits, but the process has been therapeutic while dealing with the heartbreak of missing her final season.
A spot starter on varsity a year ago while the Marauders dealt with a carousel of injuries, the up-and-coming point guard dedicated herself in the offseason to help offset the loss of 2016 Indiana All-Star Sydney Shelton, who is now starting at Butler.
“She worked awful hard for this year,” Doud said. “She had been waiting for her time to play on the varsity, and then she immediately went down.
“She literally played 45 minutes of this year, and then had the ACL tear.”
Slipping on the court and finding herself at the bottom of a scrum during a preseason practice, Camargo knew something was wrong. Seniors Megan Gawrys and Hanna Johnson feared the worst once they noticed she couldn’t stand up.
“We all ran to her to see what happened and try to help her get up. When she couldn’t we all knew,” Johnson said. “She’s been with us since we’ve been in middle school, and we’ve all grown up together, came here and have been working since freshman year. Losing her our senior year on the first day of practice was really hard.”
Camargo was one of only three seniors on the 2016-17 roster, which robbed the Marauders not only of a projected ball handler but a team leader. Though an unfortunate blow to the depth chart, Camargo has maximized her time on the sideline, rarely sitting idle.
“She keeps score and the clock for us. She comes to every practice. She hasn’t missed one. She’s even an extra passer during practice when we need one,” Doud said. “She’s basically treated it as this is my year and I’m going to get the most out of it.”
The most surprising part, Carmargo said, is the perspective she’s acquired while forced to be an observer.
“I think I’ve learned more as a player watching this year. I’m not playing in college, but it will definitely help me when I play for fun or intramural,” Camargo said. “It’s also allowed me to share what I see with my teammates.”
Her perseverance and adaptability have been an inspiration, Gawrys said, especially through what has been a trying season.
With a 6-16 record, the Marauders, who will play rival Greenfield-Central in the Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinals Friday night, have endured several bouts of hard luck.
Opening the year 2-2, the team drudged through a tough nine-game losing streak. Beginning on Nov. 18 against Rushville, the misfortune didn’t end until Dec. 27 against Logansport when the Marauders won 47-39.
Even more distressing than the longevity of their skid, however, were the five games lost by two possessions or fewer during that span, which has Mt. Vernon facing a losing season for the first time since 2007-08.
“We lost nine games, so to finally win a few and to get some confidence, it was a good feeling,” Johnson remarked on the grueling stretches this year. “To see (Rachel) there supporting us through that was an inspiration, cheering for us on the bench. She makes us want to work even harder.”
The feeling has been mutual for Camargo, who is a little more than two months removed from corrective surgery through Methodist Sports Medicine.
While the journey has been toilsome, she said, the encouragement and console she’s received from her parents, Antonio Camargo and Amy Ketron, along with her coaches and friends has raised her spirits.
“It was really difficult, but my parents have really gotten me through it this season,” Camargo said. “My teammates are always there when I’m having one of those days when I just don’t want to be there. (Assistant) coach (Tom) Kirby has really helped me, too.”
The senior night spotlight at home on Jan. 20 against Greenfield-Central kept her motivated as she suited up for the first time all year and received an honorary starting nod.
Camargo scored a bucket to open the game, a feat she’s targeted since crumbling to the floor three months ago.
“I knew I was going to do that even before I had surgery. That was our goal — to get me out on Senior Night,” she said. “It was so fun to be able to warmup again. I definitely won’t forget it.”
Neither will her teammates, who continue to draw motivation from Camargo’s example.
“It was going to be a big year for her this year. She was ready to step up, so it was upsetting for all of us when she got hurt at the very beginning. It was awesome to see her get that basket,” Gawrys said. “It’s nice to have her here and involved.”
Camargo, who will attend Southern Indiana this fall to study accounting and business administration, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“She’s still so upbeat about it. She’s not the type of kid to sit around and sing the blues. She’s just a great kid. You’d never know that she’s been out the whole year,” Doud said.