How an ankle injury helped Collins-Maxwell sprinter Alexis Houge grow as a competitor

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

MAXWELL — A year ago around this time, Alexis Houge was making a triumphant return from an ankle injury for the Collins-Maxwell girls track team. The Spartans were running at Baxter and, in her first race back, Houge helped her team win the sprint medley relay.

Then came her first open event.

“I was holding her blocks and she was really nervous about it,” Houge's teammate, Avery Fricke, said. “I was like, 'You’re Lexi Houge. You’re gonna do great.'"

Houge was doing great until about the final 5 meters.

She was in position to win the meet when suddenly she collapsed to the ground. Was it another injury? To the same ankle? Thankfully, no. The only downside was that she scratched her face that she had to cover with makeup for prom in five days.

“I knew it wasn’t something to do with my ankle,” Houge said. “It was just conditioning. My legs gave out. Really I just got up and was like, 'Oh, that was embarrassing.'"

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Now that she's fully healthy Collins-Maxwell sprinter Alexis Houge has big goals for her senior season. Houge placed sixth in the Class 1A open 400 and helped the Spartans place seventh in the 4x100-meter relay at last year's state track meet.

The brief scare turned out to be a minor bump in the road for Houge.

She ended up qualifying for state in the 100, 400 and 4x100 and 4x200-meter relays. She placed sixth in Class 1A during the 400 with a time of 1:01.36 seconds, helped the Spartans take seventh in the 4x100 with a time of 54 seconds flat and just missed placing in the 100 with a ninth-place time of 13.09 seconds.

"She’s such a natural athlete that it was easy for her," Collins-Maxwell head girls track coach Jerry Meinerts said of Houge's return from the injury.

Now fully healthy, Houge has some big goals for her senior season. She's already off to a great start after winning the 100, 200 and 400 at the Grundy Center Early Bird co-ed meet Tuesday.

Houge wants to place in the 100 at state after falling just one place short both as a freshman and junior. But she really has her eyes set on the 400.

“I’m shooting to win the 400,” Houge said. “I think if I stay healthy and drop my times like I did last year, I have a good shot of placing pretty high. I want to be under 60 seconds.” 

Houge has the capability to compete in the 100, 200 and 400 open events and sprint medley, 4x100 and 4x200 relays at state. She may even run in the 800 at a few meets this year.

It's just a matter of finding the right fit by the qualifying meet.

“We’re going to decide maybe halfway through the season,” Meinerts said. “We’re going to see where she’s at and what events she has the best shot at.” 

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Alexis Houge came back from an ankle injury to place sixth at state in the 1A girls 400-meter dash for Collins-Maxwell in her junior season. She wants to make a run at placing first in the event as a senior.

With Houge's ability to place in multiple events Collins-Maxwell has a chance to finish high in the 1A girls team standings at state this year.

“We’re not going to win the state meet," Meinerts said. "But if we can place some seconds here and thirds there and hopefully score around 28-30 points, there’s a shot at maybe getting a fifth place as a team and maybe bring home a trophy.”

Collins-Maxwell has only been around as a school since the 2017-2018 school year. So Houge has already etched her name in the record books several times.

She'd like to challenge the marks set when Collins-Maxwell joined with Baxter to form Collins-Maxwell-Baxter from 1988-2017.

“We still have our old Collins-Maxwell-Baxter Raider records up and I walk by those a lot,” Houge said. “I want to be able to break those and put my name up there.” 

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Houge suffered last year's ankle injury at the end of basketball season. She said the recovery was a challenging ordeal.

“It was all really frustrating,” Houge said. “Coming from someone who’s done sports her entire life and never really had to sit out of something, I didn’t like sitting on the sidelines watching. But I knew I had to trust the process I was going through and trust coach Meinerts.”

Houge's first love is softball. She's a four-time all-state shortstop and a member of two state champion teams at Collins-Maxwell.

That put extra stress on her recovery.

“Softball is a lot of back and forth, starting and stopping," Houge said. "I need my ankles and my legs. I really didn’t want to miss out on softball. I had to mentally know I had to stay healthy during track so I could be healthy for softball.”

With her recovery from injury and her tremendous talent, Houge has served as an inspiration for the rest of the Collins-Maxwell team. 

“It’s really great to have somebody that’s faster than you to keep you going,” Fricke said. “There’s always something to shoot for. Everyone looks up to her and wants to be like Lexi Houge. She’s a good role model to have.” 

Houge's younger sister Erica, a sophomore and a standout athlete in her own right, was blown away by how strong her big sister came back to not only finish track last with a bang, but turn in another amazing season on the softball diamond.

Alexis hit .551 with 56 stolen bases for Collins-Maxwell last summer.

“It’s just really fun to see how competitive she is and how fast she is compared to other girls,” Erica Houge said. “I get to call her my sister.”