Clara’s victory: A season of courage on the court

Kaitlyn McConnell

Clara Todd, courtesy of the Whitworth Athletics Department

Clara Todd, a freshman tennis player at Whitworth University, has a remarkable story surrounding her first year of collegiate tennis.

“I actually played other sports throughout my whole childhood [like] soccer and basketball, [but] I had a big knee injury. I tore my ACL twice, […] even dislocated my knee, hurt my MCL, all of that. I had two reconstruction surgeries on it, and then my doctors told me I couldn’t play contact sports anymore,” said Todd.

After Todd battled a long recovery, she decided that she was not done with sports quite yet and picked up tennis. 

“I played a little bit with my family growing up and so I picked it up [but] then I never really thought I could come play college tennis because that just seemed so out of reach for somebody who starts their sophomore year,” said Todd.   

Todd then played for her high school tennis team and decided to try for the collegiate level when she was in her senior year of high school.

“I decided my senior year after working really hard that I was just going to try so I reached out to Rachel [Aldridge] and she was like, ‘I [would] love to have you come try out for us and we’ll see where you end up,'” said Todd. 

Now Todd plays regularly for Whitworth women’s tennis. “I think that this season was successful for us […] as a team. We made it to the conference and we actually placed third in the conference going into this tournament. We [had] the fourth seed, but we were tied for third and fourth. So that’s kind of something we didn’t even think was going to be a possibility,” said Todd.

While Todd is successful in her singles, she is also reaching for success with her doubles partner, Gracie Smiley. “My doubled experience with Gracie Smiley has gone really well. She’s a junior on the team. […] We’ve been doing really well,” said Todd. “We went to a tie break with the number one team in the conference and we competed really well. We’ve just found like a really solid partnership together, which is cool.” 

However, this season hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Todd. “I had my knee injury kind of pop up again this spring and so I had to take about a week and a half off,” said Todd. However, this injury came into Todd’s season at a critical point for the team. “It happened in the second set of my singles match, and we were tied 4-4. I could barely walk, and I was like, I can’t drop the snatch because that’s what would push us to conference or not” Todd said. “So, I played the entire second set on one leg, and I ended up winning in a tie break and it was like the most emotional win ever.”  

Despite this bump in the road for Todd, women’s tennis made it to the semi-finals of the Northwest Conference with Todd and Smiley’s doubles partnership. However, Todd’s greatest triumph was not in the number of matches won or trophies earned. It was in the resilience she showed in the face of adversity, the courage she displayed in overcoming her injury and the unwavering passion she had for the sport she loves. 

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