WORTHINGTON — Ashley Krantz and Joel "Krek" Krekelberg are Sanford Worthington’s award-winning athletic trainers. Sports What dreams are made of: Sauerbrei delivers first victory through injury “I felt confident with everything I had, with the fractured wrist, I felt a little awkward at first, but I think once I got the hang of it...
is when I had more control.” Krantz is the new face and has been in Worthington for three years. The Sanford job is her first after earning her college degree. When she is at sporting events, she spends her time imagining scenarios and how she would react to the task at hand. Archive Photo: Ashley Krantz is becoming a familiar face at Worthington High School athletic events.
(Tim Middagh/The Globe) Meanwhile, Krek is the veteran athletic trainer with 47 years of experience. He knows a thing or two because he has seen a lot in his career, which ranges from working with professional athletes as an NFL athletic trainer with the New Orleans Saints and Houston Oilers, to being around the Worthington High School and Minnesota West Community and Technical College fields and courts for the past 30-plus years. They make a great team, and their quick responses and diagnoses of sporting accidents are an exceptional quality for local athletes. Archive Photo: Joel Krekelberg works with a young athlete during a March 10 game at the Worthington High School gym.
(Doug Wolter/Daily Globe) On Jan. 28, an athlete sustained a critical head injury during warm-ups for the Class A True Team state gymnastics meet in Worthington. Krek said it was a gut instinct to be at the warm-up. Much like fans, many athletic trainers do not arrive at the game until just before the start time. ADVERTISEMENT “It reiterated the importance of having athletic trainers there during warm-ups — it's just as important as game and event time,” Krantz said. “(Josh) Dale was giving us crap about being there for warm-ups, and I had hockey that day, Ashley had gymnastics.
And I said, ‘Let's just go to gymnastics, I'll go sit with you,’” recalled Krekelberg. “It's just something in my head that said, ‘do that.’ It was just something that we were there (for). “If we hadn’t been there, would this girl have survived? I don’t know. We don’t ever know that,” he added.
“But if I ever teach Ashley one thing — I hope that's the one thing I taught her — is listen to your gut.” An unforgettable accident The accident happened during Mankato West’s time on the floor exercise. The gymnast, after practicing her floor routine, landed not on the padding but rather on her head on the concrete floor. PEOPLE Worthington gymnastics coach Joni Reitmeier — a registered nurse in the state of Minnesota — was the first on the scene.
Krantz arrived second and Krek, third. The trio worked quickly to secure the gymnast and were able to communicate promptly and correctly through the noise in the gymnasium. Ashley grabbed the AED and initiated 911 procedures. The athlete was unconscious and had long fingernails, but Reitmeier knew that the pulse oximeter could be placed on the athlete’s barefoot toe. ADVERTISEMENT One of the first insights Krek ever told Krantz was that there was going to be a situation when you are alone — that requires the athletic trainer to rise to the occasion — and you are going to handle it perfectly.
Krantz would remain calm, collected and in control while the eyes of the venue’s spectators watched vigilantly. CONVERSATIONS “All I could hear was her reading out what the oxygen level was and what the pulse was — It was all good,” said Krek. He helped support the athlete’s neck while moving her onto a stretcher. Reitmeier then asked Krek for his penlight.
When he couldn’t find it, he instead handed her his cell phone with the flashlight turned on. Krek said he became concerned when he saw the athletes eyes were big and open while being shined upon. “Her pupils were fixed and dilated, which is not a good sign,” said Krek. “That is a sign it may be a seizure, or worse.” Krantz attempted to ask the athlete questions, but she remained unresponsive. While the ambulance was coming toward the gymnastics center, the athlete suddenly opened her eyes. ADVERTISEMENT Krantz and Krek kept the athlete calm, informing her of the incoming emergency medical vehicle.
While Krantz rubbed the athlete’s legs, Krek asked the gymnast to blink if she could feel the movement. “When something's telling you that you need to deal with it this way, deal with it. Don't second guess yourself,” said Krek. PEOPLE “Anytime somebody gets hurt — no matter what kind of injury it is, at any place — it is just devastating,” Reitmeier told The Globe on the day of the injury.
“Accidents happen, though, no matter what. There is nothing we could have done to prevent it. We responded to it well and took really good care of her. Me being a nurse, I kind of went into nurse mode there for a hot second and helped get her all stabilized and ready to go.” After the ambulance left the scene with the Mankato West gymnast came the realization of what just happened. Krek advised Krantz when she first started as a trainer in Worthington that when the athlete is out of your hands, you will be hit with a wave of anxiety and darkness for what you just worked through. “It seems like hours, but it probably was 20 minutes — and our part was done,” said Krek.
“I’ve had a number of things that have been life-threatening. In almost every one of them. I get all sick to my stomach after it's all done.” While at Sanford Worthington Medical Center, it was discovered the athlete had a brain bleed. She was taken by airplane to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she would make a strong recovery. Recognition for their response On April 14, Krantz and Krek were recognized by the Minnesota Athletic Trainers’ Association as Outstanding Athletic Trainer Award winners in recognition of their work at the true team gymnastics meet. ADVERTISEMENT Reed Fricke and Kyle Rockwell, administrators at Sanford Worthington, joined Krantz and Krek in the Twin Cities to celebrate the awards. “I never expect the recognition.
I never expect the praise,” said Krantz. “I just did what I'm supposed to do. And you know what, we had a good team. And there were a lot of us there that helped. And I was just glad that we were there.” Krantz said she was honored not just as an individual, but through the conversations that took place after the award was announced. FEATURE FOCUS “It shows the importance of having athletic trainers,” she said.
“There's a lot of schools in this area, specifically, they do not have athletic trainers at any of their events — it’s just crazy to me. “They don't just tape an ankle, they save lives,” she added. “That's my thing is I just want the whole profession, in general, to be recognized more. I don't need to be praised, I just want people to know that athletic trainers are important — and they're needed.” Krek views things a little differently.
He appreciates when parents, athletes and spectators take time to approach athletic trainers and compliment them on their craft. But he also believes every profession should be recognized when they put in good work. “Teachers, coaches and other profession should be recognized,” said Krek. “I think that's important for you to hear that because you work hard at trying to do your craft.
And that's the same thing. It's nice when you go out and they say, ‘thanks for being here.’ I think we'd go a lot further in life if we complimented people on their craft.” All-around good news Krek and Krantz continue to provide needed help to athletes in the area. They have had a busy year with breaks, bruises, muscle tears and various other injuries. ADVERTISEMENT In addition to being first on the scene when a sporting injury occurs, they also remain active with an athlete’s rehab process. Part of the job includes being a counselor and trusted figure for student athletes traversing adversity. “It's important as an athletic trainer when that athlete comes in, and their rehab is going crappy, and you're there trying to build her confidence and say, ‘Hey, you're gonna be alright, you gotta just keep working,’” said Krek.
“And if it's not going well — talk to the kid. Let them know that you're there. If you want to dump something on me, go ahead and dump it. It's not gonna go any further.” Archive Photo: Joel Krekelberg, shown attending to a player injury during the football season, is the 2018 recipient of the Fred Zamberletti Award.
(Tim Middagh/The Globe) Krantz maintains an open door policy while working at both Worthington High School and Minnesota West. “I have kids just come in, and they don’t need anything, they just want to say ‘Hi;’ they just want to talk and that's my favorite part of the job is just being that person for them, because maybe they don't have it at home,” Krantz said.
“We're not just athletic trainers for these kids, we’re a friend and role model. Obviously, there's boundaries … but I really love that I can be there for them. And they can just come in and grab a fruit snack and say, ‘Hi.’” Archive Photo: Ashley Krantz fires a shot off for two points during the first game of the Dairyland Donkey Ball Wednesday night at Worthington Senior High.
Tim Middagh/The Globe As for McKenna Schreiber, the Mankato West gymnast injured at the gymnastics event in January, she has made a strong recovery from the brain injury. According to a Mankato Free Press article from April 23 , she was given clearance to compete in select events for the Scarlets track and field team. She is unable to pole vault, which was stated to be her best event, but she has signed a national letter of intent to pole vault for the Minnesota State-Moorhead track and field team. The Free Press story noted that Schreiber can return to the event in August, after her fractured skull completely heals.