Lafayette's Angelle Primeaux Overcomes Surgery To Win Four State Titles

Angelle Primeaux would have laughed at you three months ago if you had told her she'd have four state championship medals in her hand in February.

Because the reality is that Primeaux, a Lafayette (LA) High junior, thought it would take a lot longer for her to rehabilitate from the back surgery that forced her into a hospital bed just two days after New Balance Nationals Outdoor in June.

It was just two days after she ran 2:15.71 in the Emerging Elite field of the 800m, which was her second best half-mile of all time.

And here's the thing: Primeaux needed it. She decided on surgery after enduring longstanding pain from a scoliosis diagnosis. It was even impacting her training and stride pattern.

"We were worried," said Ron Baillargeon, Lafayette's head coach.

But there Primeaux was on the final event of the day at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Indoor Championships at Louisiana State University's Field House on Feb. 18, just eight months later.

She had four medals around her neck, was smiling from ear to ear and jumping for joy after the Lafayette girls claimed an indoor state title.

"Honestly it was pretty overwhelming," she said. "Everything I've gone through, it's been really tough. I just have to power through it."

Now Primeaux is moving on to New Balance Nationals Indoor, where the middle distance runner will have two more events to finish out her indoor season. She'll run the anchor on the Lafayette girls' effort in the Emerging Elite 4x800m run, and then she'll either double in the 1200m or 1-mile leg of the team's attempt in the Elite field of the distance medley relay.

"We're going to try something different at New Balance and (open) her in the 4x800 and see how that goes," said Tim Lemaire, who coaches the distance girls at Lafayette. "I want her to run her race and not feel as though she has to play catch up."

But to think, her road back to the track all started after that surgery. She had to take each step one by one. She took little for granted.

"I guess you could say I learned how to walk again," she said. "There was that. But when I got home, I began walking in the next month or so. And then when I went to an appointment, it was two and a half months before I could jog. The fourth month I could start running.

"It was tough," she said, "but I never stopped."

Primeaux, standing at about 5-foot-6, pretty much said goodbye to her cross country season. She ran the 3-mile course at the Region 2A Championships and finished second in 19:21.

At the LHSAA Cross Country Championships, she felt the weight of that recovery, going 20:57.80 to finish 25th overall. It was a tough pill to swallow.

"She's very competitive, come hell or high water," Lemaire said. "She wants to do it, and she'll figure out a way to run some kind of way."

Primeaux pressed into the indoor season, where she set her sights on improving in the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m.

She set a 1600m indoor PB of 5:10.44 on Jan. 28 at the McNeese High School Indoor Invitational and then added a PB of 11:29.12 in the 3200m, but she struggled to get back to form in the 800m, running 2:19.68 at the LSU High School Classic on Jan. 21.

For each of her races, Primeaux still feels there's significant room to grow. But she also understands where she came from.

"Comparing my times to three or four months before when I was running 11 minute miles, it's a pretty big shift," she said. "Just seeing all the progress, it helps."

So when the junior walked into the indoor championships on Feb. 18, she didn't fear much. Even though she had a full plate, with races in the 800m and 1600m and anchors in the 4x800m and the 4x400, she ultimately believe she needed to perform her best in each race.

"She's the type of person that when she hits the track, she wants to run her best every time," Lemaire said. "We had multiple conversations about the state meet. I said, 'This isn't the time to run PRs.' But she's not that kind of girl. She wants the best out of herself all the time.'"

Primeaux went 100 percent in the 1600m, her first event of the day, and won in 5:17.92, which was just 12 seconds off her all-time best and five seconds off her indoor PB.

The junior was so tired and drained afterward that she became dizzy. She said she even went outside, felt the cold air, and put her legs high on the wall of the field house. The 800m was just 30 minutes later.

"Everything was cramping," she said. "I was freaking out."

"But we walked back inside and I ran again," she added. "I was pretty nervous but as the day went on, it was all released."

Primeaux won the 800m in 2:19.29, and anchored the 4x800 in a winning time of 9:48.62. She finished the day with a winning anchor in the 4x400m, helping Lafayette run 4:03.92.

"To think she quadrupled," said head coach Ron Baillargeon, still slightly in disbelief. "That's pretty amazing. I've had some pretty good girls, but I don't believe I've ever had one who won four golds."

Primeaux is still reflecting on the performance.

"I like to think of the big picture," she said, adding, "I want more state titles now."

More than that, the junior has high goals in the 800m and the 1600m. She's set goals of running 2:12 and 4:50, which are marks that would open the doors for college recruiters, too.

"The faster I get, the easier it will be to make my dreams come true," she said. "Hopefully I get to run for a Division I school with a good program. I'm not sure where that will be but I would definitely like to see it happen."

"She's a very special kid," Lemaire said. "With everything that's happened to her, she's very determined, very dedicated and still very competitive. She's probably up to this point in my career the most special athlete I've coached so far. Hopefully she can continue to be successful, stay healthy and hopefully make it to the next level."

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