Favorite athlete: George Banas
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: During a softball tournament, I got a concussion from a fly ball…from the opposite field…while I was up to bat.
Music on mobile device: Brandi Carlile
Future plans: Study psychology and continue throwing at Swarthmore College
Words to live by: “Love above all”
One goal before turning 30: Attend Telluride Bluegrass Festival
One thing people don’t know about me: I got my driver’s license on Pi Day.
By Mary Jane Souder
Jason Anderson describes Adria Retter as a special athlete. An athlete who asks ‘What do you want me to do now?’ and then goes out and does it. Extremely well.
The Quakertown senior is ranked second in the state in discus (136’6”), and her 43-foot throw in shot put at the Panthers’ dual meet against Pennridge last week vaulted her into the top five in that event as well.
“To top it off, she said, ‘I’d like to try the long jump,’” Anderson said. “The long jump coach is a teacher of hers, so I said, ‘Oh sure.’ She got second in both of our dual meets against Pennridge and Souderton.
“She was one inch off getting first in the meet against Pennridge. Someone said we should look it up to see if there are top 10 throwers in the state who also excel at the long jump.”
Last weekend Retter rewrote the record books for discus at the PA Track Classic, and for good measure, she easily won the shot put as well.
“No one is really competing with her,” Anderson said. “She wasn’t that into shot put, but in the winter, she was so jazzed and it seemed too long to wait because she had healed and had a great end of the season last spring and she threw all summer long.
“We got her throwing shot put in the winter, and she made states and was ranked sixth with a 41-11 ½.”
‘Healed’ is the key word in Anderson’s comments. The Quakertown senior’s accomplishments would be noteworthy under any circumstances, but they become downright jaw dropping when considered in light of an injury that was supposed to mark the end of her throwing career.
Her story is an inspirational one, although listening to Retter tell it – it’s safe to say she doesn’t think she did anything out of the ordinary.
A gifted athlete, Retter plays softball on the travel circuit for the PA Panthers, although she does not play high school softball since she competes in spring track. While playing fall softball in September of her junior year, Retter – who throws right handed - dislocated the shoulder of her throwing arm while diving back to third base.
This on the heels of a track season that saw her break all of Quakertown’s sophomore records for the throws and advance to districts in all three events – discus, shot put and javelin. She medaled in discus, finishing eighth, and that summer devoted herself to upping her game.
“I decided I wanted to do track in college, so I started lifting more and doing technique work and stuff that summer, and then my whole little incident with dislocating my shoulder happened,” Retter asid.
The ‘whole little incident’ turned out to be not so little when she dislocated her shoulder a second time in gym class while playing tennis.
“I was like, ‘All right, this is not good,’” Retter said.
An MRI prior to dislocating her shoulder had revealed a slight tear of her labrum.
“The surgeon I was seeing for the tennis injury said we should just repair it, so they went in, and I think it was worse – they said half of the ring was off the bone, so that’s why it was so unstable,” Retter said. “They had to sew it back on.
“I was pretty upset because I had all these plans to go to college, to go D1 and all these fancy things. I kind of had to re-evaluate it. There was one point where the surgeon asked if throwing was something I planned to do in college. I told him yes, and he pretty much told me to make other plans that it wasn’t going to work out, so that kind of irritated me. It was such an absolute. I was like, ‘I don’t know about that.’”
Retter actually wasn’t buying any of it for a minute. After all, she still had a healthy left arm.
“I started throwing left handed, which still gave me an outlet to throw, but then I got cleared to throw and I was fine,” she said.
While the Quakertown senior can sum up her remarkable story in one sentence, her coach can’t.
“She had surgery in November, and I had her as a student at that point, so we’re talking about it – how long will you be out? I remember she said she’d probably be back in the middle of May, and I said, ‘Well, the season’s over,’” Anderson said. “She said, ‘I’m going to come out for the team, and I’ll just throw with my left hand.’
“It sounds like the craziest idea. How’s that going to work? But you don’t want to tell someone who’s trying to make decisions, so ‘Okay, fine, sure, we’re happy to have you, you’re a good person.’ So lo and behold, she practices on her own, which she does very frequently, and she figures out how to do it. She learned to throw with her other hand and does fantastically.
“It’s as if she’s been doing that her whole life or was able to do it her whole life. So she’s scoring points and leading the team in throws with a senior and they’re peas in a pod, so it’s going well. She’s throwing discus (left handed), and she makes districts, which is difficult. By the time she gets to districts, she’s healed.”
Retter was cleared the end of April, just in time for districts on May 3. She finished third in discus at districts and advanced to states, unimpressed by the fact that she qualified for districts throwing with her left hand.
“I like to challenge myself, so in softball, I decided I was going to learn how to hit left handed because it’s faster to get to first base if you hit from the left side,” she said. “I had some body mechanics already from knowing how to do that.
“It was actually kind of nice because you develop bad habits from being used to throwing so much, so actually, it was like starting fresh from my left side. I think I actually learned that faster knowing what mistakes to avoid and stuff like that, so it wasn’t that bad.”
If there was a difficult stretch, it came when Retter was forced to undergo six weeks of physical therapy prior to surgery.
“I knew that we were on a timetable with when I would be able to get back to throwing,” she said. “I already knew in the end I was going to need the surgery so it was frustrating because I could feel myself taking weeks off my track season, delaying the whole process.
“That was the most frustrating part, knowing that I was doing all that work just for them to go in and fix my shoulder anyway.”
The final chapter of Retter’s high school journey will be written in the upcoming weeks, and if the past is any indication, it should be quite a finish.
Retter actually grew up playing softball and field hockey after a short-lived stint with cheerleading and dance as a youngster.
“I did not like it,” she said with a laugh.
Track entered the picture in sixth grade when she served as a manager. A year later, she was competing for her middle school team, and her versatility was apparent from the outset.
“I did the 4x400, long jump and shot put, which is not a very typical grouping,” Retter said. “I have always been stronger than my piers – I just gravitate to throwing and that just continued into high school.
“I didn’t do track my freshman year – I don’t know why. I guess I was scared to do it.”
As a sophomore, Retter was back on the track and field time. Any fears she had were nothing but a distant memory as she made an immediate impact.
She will continue her throwing career at Swarthmore College. Not because she couldn’t compete at the Division 1 level but rather because she chose not to. It turns out Retter is not only an elite athlete but also an elite student. A National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist, she is among the 16,000 students nationwide selected from the more than 1.6 million entrants. Semifinalists represent the top 0.5 percent of the state’s senior students.
“It was actually spur of the moment that I went and visited (Swarthmore) because I always kept it in the back of my mind,” she said. “I don’t know why I never gave it a chance because it ended up being the perfect school for me.
“I was torn between Lehigh and Messiah for a while, and then I realized how I like my balance of life, and I didn’t want to go D1 because I didn’t want track to be like my job, so I narrowed it down and knew I wanted to go D3. I thought it was going to be Messiah, but then after a long talk with my English teacher – I like to think. That’s just my personality, and he thought I would have more opportunities at Swarthmore because it’s a more intellectually based campus. He thought it would be more of a challenge.”
Retter will major in psychology.
“There’s a bunch of different paths I could see myself going down, but some of the main ones are therapy and research or teaching,” she said. “I would like to do post-secondary, so that obviously requires a Ph.D, so I think that would come later.”
A member of the National Honor Society, Retter has exhausted Quakertown’s AP math classes and has been taking a class at Lehigh University both last semester and this semester.
“I teach two AP classes, and she’s taken both of them last year – she scored 5 out of 5 on the college board exam,” Anderson said. “She’s really the whole package.”
Retter is involved in Quakertown’s Mini-THON and is also active in her church. She teaches a class of four- and five-year-olds on Wednesday nights and is a team leader at a weeklong summer camp put on by her church.
It’s been a remarkable journey for Retter, an athlete who commands respect both on and off the track. Even in the school’s male-dominated weight room.
“It’s fascinating,” Anderson said. “We share the weight room amongst all our teams.
“Adria walks in and the football team doesn’t bat an eye. She does her squats – she squats more than I can and most of the males that I know. No one bats an eye when she’s in there.
“It really has helped my girls’ team in lot of ways because now we traipse in the weight room and we have Adria. Who’s going to tell her she can’t come in? She’s just a dominant athlete and she’s so unassuming and humble. I’m happy to be part of it honestly. She’s pretty special.”