Iowa’s Golden Girl might be sidelined

BY IAN MARTIN | AUGUST 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Pop, pop, pop, pop.

That’s the noise Hawkeye Marching Band Golden Girl Chelsea Russell’s right foot emitted during a twirling competition on June 18 after Russell and a male teammate botched the landing of a move.

Each of those pops was a Jones fracture — a fracture of the base of the small toe. As an injury that could potentially be chronic, the former Miss Majorette (often considered the highest honor in twirling) opted for surgery during the summer as opposed to using a cast to facilitate a natural healing process.

“Even though there’s a low rate of recovery for that surgery, if it does recover, you’re virtually never going to break it again,” she said, after noting that the cast would not have allowed her to perform until possibly November.

Now, the Hawkeye Marching Band’s only twirler will not perform to her full potential during the Saturday’s football season-opener against Tennessee Tech. While her fractures are fully healed, numerous weeks of being immobilized this summer has left her calf and ankle weak and sometimes uncommunicative with her foot. Russell is a performer whose routine typically incorporates dancing and acrobatic movements, which means fans will see if a completely different show from the Golden Girl if she does manage to twirl during pregame and halftime.

“What we’ve been trying to do is come up with a lot of stuff that is low impact,” Hawkeye Marching Band drum major Joe Piasecki said. “[We’re] really just trying to get her acclimated to being out on the field.”

Piasecki said he and Russell will focus more on “partner work and equipment exchanges” because she isn’t able to run or jump nearly as well as she used to be able to.

It’s evident in Russell’s demeanor that the current graduate student isn’t used to limitations in her work. In her fifth and final season as the Golden Girl, she seems intent on running — or at least walking — out to midfield before the season’s first kickoff.

Hawkeye Marching Band Director Kevin Kastens has been a cautious voice in Russell’s ear during her healing. While she is eager to perform, it seems Kastens would prefer to have a healthy Golden Girl later in the season than a limping performer early in the year.

“I’d rather have her take it easy at the beginning of the season,” he said. “I’d rather have her in performance shape for the start of the Big Ten season.”

The director did acknowledge the importance of both his Golden Girl and drum major in the band’s shows, but said the band will march on even with an absence of batons.

“The Hawkeyes can perform with or without the Golden Girl and the drum major,” he said. “[But] they’re crowd favorites; they’re the icing on the cake.”

The decision on whether Russell will perform before the Tennessee Tech matchup will be determined by doctors later this week. But she isn’t even entertaining the thought of a potential day off in her last year wearing Iowa Gold.

“Being the Golden Girl is something I take very seriously,” Russell said. “And the fact that it’s my fifth and final year, there was no way I wasn’t going to get out in Kinnick — even if they wheeled me out.”

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