Laying in a hospital bed with a broken wrist and having just come out of surgery to repair her small intestine, Nancy Sorrell wanted to know when she could get back to the pool.
Not in the water, necessarily, just around it and her teammates.
As soon as Sorrell learned that her injuries from a New Year's Eve car accident would end her days swimming for the Poplar Bluff Lady Mules, the senior called her coach asking to be the team manager.
"You could tell she just got out of surgery and she wasn't all there," Poplar Bluff coach Beth Lewis said. "Her mom was talking to me on the phone and that's the first thing (Nancy) asked.
"'Coach can I still be a manager?'"
Sorrell, who started swimming competitively in the fifth grade and already has three varsity letters, began her senior year by winning her first race. Just over two weeks later at a meet in Perryville, Sorrell won the 200 freestyle and helped the 400 freestyle relay to first place as the Lady Mules won the meet.
After getting off work on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, Sorrell was heading home to make plans for that night when her car slammed into a tree after leaving PP Highway, two miles west of Green Forest.
"My tire caught on the side of the road and I just went over into the woods," Sorrell said. "I looked out my passenger side window and I saw the tree (coming). … That was, I don't know …"
Sorrell said she had a pretty good idea that her left wrist was broken immediately after the accident -- her first broken bone -- and fortunately somebody was driving behind her to call for help.
After being released from the hospital, the pain in her abdomen forced Sorrell to return at 8 p.m. and by 1 a.m. she was in surgery to repair a hole in her small intestine.
"I was just really lucky," Sorrell said.
Two pins were later inserted into her left wrist and her cast was finally removed this week.
"She definitely scared all of us," Lewis said. "We're glad we still have her with us."
While she was recovering from her injuries, Sorrell's absence was felt at meets and in practice. The first practice after the accident, Lewis said there was absolute silence at the pool.
"That's really hard because I've swam with her since we were about 8 (years old)," fellow senior Lauren Decker said. "That was really hard with her not in the water, being out there."
At meets, the Lady Mules struggled to replace Sorrell in the 500 freestyle, the longest event.
"She was one of our top swimmers and it's really hard to get some new swimmers to step up and do the long distance like she did, but they've been trying," said Decker, who won the event on Senior Night by a second.
That night when the four seniors were honored and the Lady Mules beat Saxony Lutheran 89-64 there were a few tears and plenty of hugs.
"They're much more than athletes, they're like my little sisters," Lewis said.
Decker said the team has gotten closer as the season went along, hanging out away from the pool.
Lewis, who is in her second year coaching a sport she never competed in, said Sorrell and Decker have meant a lot to her because they've helped teach her swimming techniques and how meets are ran. She added that seniors Alexa Hon and Jackie LeGrand, who joined the team for the first time this season, have "brought this sunshine to the team, this little extra goofiness that makes (the team) kind of sit back and chill out at meets so it's not as stressful."
When Sorrell returned -- she only missed three days of school -- she took on the duties of a manager, timing races at meets and helping Lewis at practice. Sorrell now says she might like to coach some day herself, probably not at the high school level. She plans on returning to the pool to keep in shape some time soon and will attend Three Rivers in the fall, pursuing some kind of medical career.
"Coach is really giving me jobs that a normal manager wouldn't have," Sorrell said. "She's helped me, she says that I'm her assistant coach and she's training me."
While it's been fun to see her teammates improve their times, Sorrell said it's been hard not to wonder how much she might have improved if not for the accident.
Poplar Bluff's season ends today with the conference meet in Perryville. Last year Sorrell earned three all-conference medals.
"It was hard to see her on the deck all the time and not see her in her races," Lewis said. "I think all the other girls probably felt the same way."
In what would be her final race, Sorrell swam the third leg of the 400-freestyle relay which the Lady Mules won by 8.6 seconds. Four weeks later with Sorrell holding one of the timers, that relay featuring Decker, LeGrand, Kayla Huett and Hannah Crites broke the school record with a time of 4:51.06.
"If I couldn't be on it," Sorrell said, "I at least wanted to time it."