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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK : Valetutto Dismisses Diagnosis to Compete in Gymnastics

Kim Valetutto thought her gymnastics season and, quite possibly, her career were over in December when she was diagnosed as having degenerative arthritis in her right wrist.

A doctor told the Cal State Fullerton freshman she wouldn’t be able to compete this season and might miss next season, too. Her only chance was to rest and see how the wrist felt in a few months, the doctor said.

Valetutto got a second opinion--her own--and came up with a different prescription: Take two aspirin and see me on the balance beam.

The Dallas native has competed in five of six meets for the Titans, scoring a high of 9.35 on the beam and 8.35 on the vault. None of Valetutto’s vaults have contributed to Fullerton’s team scores (the top six count), but several of her beam routines have.

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With injuries reducing the Titans’ roster to seven gymnasts entering Friday night’s home meet against top-ranked Utah, Valetutto’s modest contributions have been appreciated.

“We have no depth, so if she can breath and get on an apparatus, she’s helping the program,” Fullerton Coach Lynn Rogers said. “But she’s been better than that. If she’s not the toughest kid we’ve ever had, she’s right there.”

Valetutto, considered Rogers’ top recruit, was attempting to qualify for the U.S. junior nationals last spring when she woke up in the middle of the night with severe swelling in the wrist. She dropped out of the regional meet in Texas and was treated for a fractured wrist.

“We weren’t that concerned,” Rogers said. “People break things all the time.”

Valetutto trained throughout the summer and fall but still felt pain in her wrist. According to Rogers, Dr. Philip McFarland, the Titans’ team physician, examined the wrist and said it was never broken.

McFarland performed exploratory surgery in December and discovered two bones rubbing together in Valetutto’s wrist. All the cartilage had been worn off the bones. The diagnosis: Degenerative arthritis.

“I thought she was done,” Rogers said.

Valetutto has virtually no flexibility in the wrist and had to eliminate most moves emphasizing the right hand from her routines, but she figured she was training before McFarland’s diagnosis and could take the pain. Why not continue?

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“I figured if I could do it then, I could do it now,” Valetutto said. “The doctor said there was no way I could work out on it, and I said, ‘Well, I am.’ My goal was to go to college and do gymnastics for four years. I thought I could live with the pain, so I decided to try it.”

Add gymnastics: Rogers, who lost three gymnasts--Gina Satterly, Krickitt Pappas and Erin Brewer--to season-ending injuries before the season even began, got more bad news Friday, when surgery revealed torn cartilage and a chipped bone in Lisa Dolan’s right wrist.

Dolan, a senior who had the third-highest all-around average (37.02) on the team, sprained her neck and hurt her wrist when she fell off the uneven bars Feb. 11 at Utah. The neck injury wasn’t serious, but Rogers said the wrist injury may end Dolan’s season.

“When it rains it pours,” Rogers said. “Maybe it’s because we have a guy named Murphy (football Coach Gene Murphy) over there. Murphy’s Law definitely exists here.”

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Three Fullerton baseball players, including recently activated infielder Jason Moler, received one-game suspensions from the NCAA for their involvement in a fight during Sunday’s game at Rice.

With Fullerton leading, 7-0, Titan second baseman Steve Sisco was caught attempting to steal home for the third out in the seventh inning. When Moler led off the eighth, a pitch from Craig Charlton, the brother of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Norm Charlton, sailed behind the batter’s head.

Moler, a junior transfer who was playing his third game since being released from a commitment to Illinois, charged the mound, touching off a bench-clearing brawl.

There were no serious injuries, but Moler, designated hitter Mike Berry and reserve outfielder Jim Betzsold were ejected, meaning they are automatically suspended for a game by the NCAA. They won’t play Wednesday night at UCLA.

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Titan Notes

Last weekend’s Pacific-10 Conference wrestling meet, already a success for Fullerton after a school-record five Titans qualified for the NCAA meet, has become even more of a success. Ramon Diaz, who finished fourth at 177 pounds, and Jeff Maes, who finished fifth at 126, received at-large berths to the national tournament, which is scheduled for March 14-16 at Iowa City, Iowa. The top three finishers in each weight class receive automatic NCAA berths, and coaches select eight more wild-card entrants. The at-large berths usually go to fourth-place finishers, but Maes’ 10-3 victory over Oregon’s Pat Hirai helped persuade coaches to choose a seventh Titan. They’ll join Fullerton wrestlers David Jones (heavyweight champion), Marty Kouyoumtjian (second at 150), Mike Grubbs (third at 118), Lyndon Campbell (third at 134) and Laszlo Molinar (third at 167) at the NCAA meet. . . . Titan point guard Michelle Hennessey set a single-season school record for assists during Saturday’s 61-44 victory over UC Irvine. The former Edison High School standout has 175 assists, surpassing Cheryl Peterson’s previous record of 172, set in 1980-81. . . . Senior center Genia Miller, who has already set single-season records for scoring, rebounds, field-goal percentage, free throws made and attempted and blocked shots, is on course to set records for field goals made and attempted. Those would give her every single-season Titan record except assists.


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