Lakewood Ranch runner Olivia Ortiz commits to the University of Alabama

twolfrum@bradenton.comNovember 20, 2012 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- After suffering a broken leg at the state track and field meet, Olivia Ortiz allowed herself a moment's doubt about whether her hope of obtaining a college scholarship was dashed.

She didn't need to worry.

Division I colleges began calling on the Lakewood Ranch state champion July 1, the first day NCAA rules permitted it, and never stopped.

On Monday, Ortiz, a senior, committed to the University of Alabama, choosing the Crimson Tide over Louisville, Auburn and Mississippi. She will receive a full ride to run cross country and compete in distance events on the track and field team after she signs a national letter of intent on Feb. 1.

"Having an injury like mine, how could that not shake your mind?" said Ortiz, who received calls from more than 20 Division I programs. "My coach and parents reassured me that everything would be OK.

"The recruitment process has been a journey. I just feel like it (Alabama) is the best

overall school for me."

Ortiz cited Alabama's "beautiful, beautiful facilities" and coaching staff as the reasons she committed to the Tide. Ortiz plans to major in communications or journalism or sports management. She spent the fall as a cross country correspondent with the website flrunners.com.

Ortiz collapsed on the track during the 3,200-meter run on May 5 in Jacksonville. She was diagnosed with a broken femur, costing her the chance to defend her Class 3A state championship in cross country this fall.

Now, after six months of rehabilitation, doctors have declared the leg 100 percent healed, Ortiz said, and removed all training restrictions. It will just be a matter of regaining strength in her leg.

She is undecided about running for the Lakewood Ranch track and field team next spring.

"Of course I want to do track, but if it comes it comes," she said.

It has been quite a running career for Ortiz, who took up the sport as a freshman because she wanted to stay in shape for soccer.

She is a two-time Herald All-Area Athlete of the Year in both cross country and track. After winning the state title as a junior cross country runner, she finished 19th in the Foot Locker National Championships in San Diego. In track, she finished second in the state in the 1,600-meter run as a junior and was a member of a Lakewood Ranch state championship relay. As a sophomore, she finished third in the state in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.

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