At some point in everyone’s lives they face adversity, and for Autumn Santos, a public health major and track athlete, she had to face two hip surgeries during her collegiate career, but eventually placed her name in the school’s record books.
At a young age, Santos was a gymnast before becoming a track star at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It wasn’t until she was about 10 years old had she decided to begin her track career after she and her parents discovered she had a lot of speed in gymnastics.
High school is when she realized she could continue to compete in track in college and receive an athletic scholarship. Santos is from Illinois and was looking at southern schools for athletics and academics and wasn’t thinking about enrolling at Minnesota State.
That’s when her sprint coach reached out and recruited her for a paid visit to MSU. When she arrived, she fell in love with the school and the program. Santos visited a lot of big schools, which wasn’t an ideal fit for her.
“This school I really liked because it’s like what, 15,000 students? So, it’s kind of like a medium-happy,” Santos said.
After meeting the track team and watching them compete, she realized that with the size of the school and the group of individuals on the team, that this was the school she wanted to go to.
Santos is a fifth-year senior, but her favorite memory was during her junior year where she was put on the 4×100 relay, after one of her teammates unfortunately tore her ACL at the Drake Alternative. Santos being next up in line was excited to prove people wrong and show everyone she deserves to be on the relay as one of the fastest girls.
“It was in Bradenton, Florida. We went there at the end of May and we ran our butts off and literally made it to the finals and we became All-American’s. So, that was like probably one of the top moments for me for track purposes,” she said.
There’s been many good moments during Santos’ time at Minnesota State, but there’s also been difficult times. In her five years at MSU, she has had to persevere through two hip surgeries.
Santos was excited to come to Mankato as a freshman because she didn’t know anyone coming in and became friends with some of the people on the track team. However, during fall training she felt something wrong with her hip and later found out that she had a torn labrum, which resulted in surgery and sidelined her for most of her freshman indoor and outdoor season.
Being young at the time, Santos was eager to get surgery and rehab out of the way and push through to the next season, but she didn’t realize how hard it was to overcome the injury.
“Sophomore year my indoor season, my times just weren’t there. I was young and I didn’t really realize like how bad I wanted to run fast,” she said.
Not being able to compete at the highest level caused her to miss the spot on the relay and it motivated her to work hard and come back stronger. After receiving All-American honors, Santos enjoyed the feeling and worked hard to keep that same level of success.
By the end of her junior year, she was in her prime and doing well, but right when she felt things were on the up, Santos tore her left hip during fall training senior year, leaving her devastated. With this injury, it takes about six months after surgery to rehab.
Santos was able to slowly run 3-4 months into rehab. Through managing what she was eating and dieting to become the best version of herself, she was able to overcome this difficult process.
One thing that separates Santos from others is her drive and positive mindset.
“I made it a thing where I’m like, this is Autumn, you have one more year left of track. So, you’re going to work your butt off and rehab fast and get back to the track. I truly, truly am blessed to be running and healthy now,” Santos said.
Rehabbing from surgery isn’t easy and some people struggle with preserving through those moments in life. Santos didn’t allow her rehab process to get to her mentally and kept a positive mindset.
“I really did think positive the whole time and I still am a positive person and I just think that if I can overcome that, I can overcome a lot of other things,” she said.
Through a lot of adversity and tough times, the NSIC Indoor Challenge on Feb. 15, would prove to show all the hard work she put in to getting back to where she was wanted to be.
In the 4×400 relay, Santos and her team of sophomore Rose Gaye, senior Crystal Malone and junior Mackenzie Woodard would qualify for nationals and break the school’s record. The time they ran was 3:48.17, previously beating the time set at 3:49.86.
“It’s really astonishing and I just look back and I’m like wow, a year ago I was rehabbing with my hip and God, I really am just really blessed I would say,” Santos said.
Santos and her relay team will be heading to Birmingham, Alabama, to participate at National’s March 13-14.
Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics.