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Locally: Mead’s Drew Jordan wins Ironman Chattanooga after major knee reconstruction surgery

Oct. 3, 2022 Updated Mon., Oct. 3, 2022 at 4:41 p.m.

Spokane’s Drew Jordan wins Ironman Chattanooga on Sept. 24, 2022.  (Courtesy photo)
Spokane’s Drew Jordan wins Ironman Chattanooga on Sept. 24, 2022. (Courtesy photo)
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Roughly 18 months ago, Drew Jordan was at Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists in Spokane Valley undergoing major knee reconstruction surgery.

Saturday, Sept. 24, he was in Tennessee, winning Ironman Chattanooga .

His first Ironman victory following a handful of wins in lesser triathlons qualified the former Washington State University runner for the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, next October.

“It was quite a journey,” said the 30-year-old Mead resident of the 9-hour, 50-second trip around a little more than 144 miles of the Chattanooga countryside. “I’m still sore.”

Jordan came out of the water in 25th place following the 2.5-mile swim in the Tennessee River he covered in 43 minutes, 24 seconds. He gained considerable ground on the 116-mile bike ride, pulling into sixth after 5 hours, 4 minutes, 32 seconds in the saddle.

That deficit evaporated on the run. He blew past the competition, covering 26.2 miles on a rebuilt knee in 3 hours, 5 minutes, 48 seconds, finishing in 9 hours, 50 seconds. The runner-up timed 9:06:38.

It was the summer of 2020 – “the COVID summer,” he calls it – while training for Ironman competition that Jordan injured his right knee.

“It was an impact injury,” he said, but can’t pinpoint a specific incident. “I had a minor bike wreck, and in running trails and jumping, it got pretty sore.”

Surgery was the solution to replace cartilage that had been pretty much destroyed. But not just any surgery; not the “common” type your read about athletes undergoing.

This is called MACI, an acronym for Matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation, a procedure in which a patient’s own cells are used to regrow new cartilage for the knee joint. Because of this, it is a two-part procedure that began in March 2021.

“The recovery was brutal,” said Jordan, “much worse than total knee replacement. It took me a while to realize the extent (of the injury). For six weeks, I was on crutches; no impact. Just to be able to walk was my first goal.”

Up to three years was the timeline. There was a time he wondered if triathlons would still be in the picture. “I got pretty good on the bike,” he said, the competitor in him visualizing maybe bicycle racing as a replacement.

“A year and a half post-surgery is pretty fast” to be competing, he said, crediting surgeon Dr. Matthew Wallace for helping make it happen. “He’s a cyclist. It was comforting to know I had someone who knew what I was going through.”

At the end of this month, Jordan will be back on the road, so to speak. He’ll be in St. George, Utah, Oct. 28-29 for the Half Ironman World Championship.

He was going to be competing with his brother-in-law and former WSU teammate Todd Wakefield, who won the Maple Valley, Wash., Half Ironman Sept. 17, to qualify for the World Championship. But Wakefield gave up his spot to stay home with wife Delaney, who is expecting the couple’s second child.

Drew and Todd married Zalud sisters, former Mt. Spokane High School and WSU athletes Courtney and Delaney, and are raising their families as neighbors in Mead. Drew and Courtney have two children.

College scene

Kenzie Dean, a Lewis-Clark State senior from Athol, Idaho, was named Cascade Collegiate Conference volleyball defender of the week on Sept. 26 for her record-setting performance the previous weekend.

The libero/defensive specialist from Timberlake High School set a Warriors record with 38 digs in a four-set match, which is also the third-most in any match by an LC State player. Dean averaged 5.22 digs per set over the weekend and dealt seven assists.

• The Gonzaga men made the biggest positive move of area schools in Week 3 of the 2022 USTFCCCA NCAA Division I Men’s cross country coaches national and regional rankings.

The Bulldogs climbed four spots from 16th to a program-high 12th nationally after a strong outing at the Cowboy Jamboree during the weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and are up one to second in the West.

Gonzaga’s women, a program-high 21st nationally in Week 2, dropped to 30th nationally and are down two spots to sixth in the West.

The Washington men slid 15 spots to 23rd nationally and dropped three to fifth in the West. The Husky women are down three spots to ninth nationally and remained second in the West.

Elsewhere in the West, the Washington State men are down two to 12th and the women are up one to 11th, and the Idaho men remained 15th.

Softball

Spokane’s Brunette/Spikes 70s AA team returned from the Senior Softball USA World Championship tournament Sept. 19-22 in Las Vegas, Nevada, as national champion and runner-up in the Worlds in their 70/75+ division.

The Western National champion, a title it won earlier in Sacramento, California, was declared National champion by forfeit because there was no Eastern champion. It came out of pool play in the World tournament with a 2-1 record and the No. 3 seed behind two unbeaten teams.

Brunette/Spikes lost its first game in bracket play, then strung together six wins in elimination games, capped by a 25-24 decision over the unbeaten OKC Outlaws, rallying in the bottom of the seventh inning. That forced an if-necessary game for the championship. OKC won 21-19, tagging out a runner at third base on a bang-bang play to end the game.

Carrie Higgins, our scorekeeper, was our MVP,” said co-coach Mark Riley, whose team finished with an 8-3 record, outscoring opponents 197-145. “She was there for all 11 games, kept track of all 342 runs, all the hits, all the errors, all the courtesy runners, everything, and never missed a beat.”

Joe Harari, Jim Hardenbrook, Dwayne Phinney and Wayne Terry were the player MVPs. Other players: Tom Adams, Steve Bergstrom, Gary Blake, Connie Burnett, Al Carlson, Tom Crouch, Steve Erenberg, John Higgins, Grant Hodge, Ron Newcome, Mike Owen and Cam Preston. Ron Martin is the other coach.

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