When Pace High's Caroline Page found out last summer that she would have to undergo shoulder surgery for the second time in a year, the standout swimmer was dismayed.
Page -- who was looking forward to her senior year -- had loose ligaments which caused her shoulder socket to become stretched. The condition caused her lots of pain.
Still, despite all the pain and surgeries, Page accomplished a goal she's had since the beginning of her career: Earning a scholarship to an NCAA Division I school.
Last week, Page -- who in her four years at Pace has had three top-three finishes and seven top-five finishes at the FHSAA Class 2A state finals -- signed a scholarship with Florida State University.
"It definitely means a lot (to sign with FSU)," said Page, who was the News Journal's Female Swimmer of the Year in 2010. "Coming back after my first surgery was tough, but I was able to do it. So I was determined that I could do it again. Now, I'm just excited to go to FSU. I've always wanted to go to a Division I school, and I was afraid the surgeries were going to put me back."
Page didn't let that happen.
Page's first surgery to tighten her shoulder ligaments was in the summer of 2011. But the shoulder wasn't tightened enough.
Before she got the news about the second surgery, Page's primary goal was to swim a time fast enough to make the Olympic Trials, which were held at the end of June.
"I was upset knowing that with having surgery again, I wouldn't even be able to try to get into the Olympic Trials," Page said. "But with all the pain I was in, I probably couldn't have gotten my trial cut, anyway. But I just felt like everything I had gone through with my first surgery was a waste because now, I was having to go through it again."
Page had the surgery and continuously worked to get back into top form, refusing to give in to her frustrations.
As a result, this past season at state, Page finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke (57.46 seconds), eighth in the 100-yard butterfly (58.46) and helped the Patriots to a 12th-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay (1:55.87). Though the times weren't as fast as the ones she posted during her sophomore year before the surgeries, Page demonstrated she still could be one of the fastest swimmers in the state.
"Her willingness to work through all of that is what I think sets her apart as a swimmer," said Philip Kraus, the head coach and CEO of the Greater Pensacola Aquatic Club, who has coached Page since 2008. "A lot of people may have said, 'I'm not going to be able to to do it.' But she has a really good attitude, and she loves swimming. She does especially well in a team environment, and I think she's going to do even better at FSU."
That's what Page and Florida State are counting on.
The Seminoles first noticed Page at a competition during her sophomore year and kept in touch with the swimmer ever since. FSU head coach Neil Harper and his staff also took note of Page's progress following the surgeries.
"Coach Harper called me over the summer, and asked me if I was still interested in FSU," Page recalled. "And three or four weeks later, I went on an official visit and two weeks after that, I committed.
"I definitely liked the swimming pool there, the coaches, the program, the team. ... FSU also has a (physical therapy facility) connected to the weightroom, which was a huge factor in choosing to go there since I know I'm going to be using that room a lot."
Before joining the Seminoles in the fall, Page -- who specializes in the backstroke -- is working to get her times down to what they were her sophomore year or faster. For now, she's grateful for what she's been able to accomplish.
"To any athlete that has to go through something like I did, I would tell them don't ever give up," Page said. "Because after all the pain, the rehab and the physical therapy that I've been through, now it's all worth it. I'm going to a Division I school on a scholarship. So it's definitely been worth it, and I'm really excited."