Arthritic Elk athlete’s grit, performance admired

Mallory Adams was 16 years old, a year-round endurance athlete, accustomed to good results and boundless energy, when her body started to betray her.

“Everything just hurt. All my joints,” said Adams about that troublesome summer and fall. “It was hard to walk, hard to drive.”

At the beginning of the running season, she especially had pain in the knees.

bruce_sidelines“I thought it was no big deal at first. But it kept getting worse, and it spread everywhere.”

It took doctors at the University of Minnesota month or so to figure it out. Ultimately blood tests revealed that she had rheumatoid arthritis.

Mallory Adams is shown here while making all-conference for the third time Jan. 29 at Theodore Wirth Park. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Mallory Adams is shown here while making all-conference for the third time Jan. 29 at Theodore Wirth Park. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

“Then they put me on a lot of drugs and it was a lot better,” said Adams, an Elk River senior who made all-conference in Nordic Ski three times, the last two while dealing with arthritis. “I have to take14 pills each day, and give myself shots every week, but I don’t have a lot of pain any more.”

Her knees are sore after a meet but “eventually it’s OK and I can deal with it.”

Adams missed her cross country season that year but was back on skis in December, her grit and determination earning coach Kirstin Anderson’s admiration.

“Mallory struggled through the summer and fall with just moving at times, let along being a varsity athlete,” said Anderson. “She was able to come back and be one of our top skiers.”

These past two years, Anderson adjusted Adams’ training schedule, mindful that she must deal with condition this the rest of her life.

“It’s harder to recover now after a race,” concedes Adams, “but Anderson gives me extra days off and shorter ski’s.”

Anderson lauds Adams as “an in inspiration to other athletes in similar situations.”

Mallory Adams
Mallory Adams

Rheumatoid is an auto-immune disorder in which the body attacks itself. Doctors told her it’s worse than other kinds of arthritis which affect individual joints.

Still, when diagnosed, Adams felt some relief.

“I was just happy that it was not something that I could die from,” she said grimly. “I just had to accept it and make the best of it.”

Adams made all-Northwest Suburban by placing 27th as a sophomore. She came back strong after her medication started and placed 11th as a junior. She was 21st this year while also battling the flu. In section meets she has placed 24th, 27th and 19th.

Quitting the Nordic team crossed her mind but only briefly.

“I love it, so I just keep going,” said Adams, a co-captain, who’s also lettered in track and soccer.

Adams played soccer through ninth grade, switched to cross country in 10th, and went back to soccer this year because long runs were too daunting. She saw plenty of action off the bench as a midfielder on a team that reached the state tournament.

“It was great having Mallory again this year,” said coach Brian Steuter, describing her as a smart player, hard worker and “a great teammate.”

Adams said she plans to attend the U of M and become a nurse, adding that she expects to be a lifelong skier, too.