A former member of the Nebraska women’s cross country team, Lilly Markusch saw her collegiate athletic career end before it could gain any steam. After a serious left leg injury in her freshman year, she re-injured it at a fundraiser event with her business fraternity last November. This time, however, it would be much worse. She completely tore the muscle in her left leg. It was so bad that going into surgery doctors told her there could be a chance her leg would be gone when she woke up.
“I knew I hurt it badly, but I had no clue it would be this serious,” said Markusch. “Thankfully, I didn’t lose my leg, but was diagnosed with compartment syndrome. I can still walk fine, but I don’t have much feeling in my lower leg and have permanent ‘drop foot’ in my left foot.”
Compartment syndrome, a serious medical condition that occurs when pressure within muscles builds to dangerous levels, caused the blood flow in her left leg to decrease significantly. After multiple surgeries it would be determined her running career was over. After being dealt an extremely difficult deck of cards, Markusch feels grateful to still have her leg and be able to enjoy the rest of her collegiate experience as a student.
“Of course it’s devastating to not be able to run anymore,” she said. “But Coach (David) Harris allowed me to remain with the team as a manager, so I still feel very involved. I became more active in my business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, which has allowed me to meet new friends outside of athletics and build my professional network.”
A marketing major in the College of Business, Markusch pursued a new adventure academically as well. She built a close relationship withDr. Laurie A. Miller, an associate professor of practice in economics. Miller, who frequently teaches a summer class abroad, convinced her to join her program in Barcelona, Spain.
“I met Lilly when she was a student-athlete in my principles of macroeconomics course," said Miller. "Since then, I have had the opportunity to engage with Lilly through a variety of activities through the business fraternity that I advise. She also came to Spain with the study abroad program that I led. I constantly encourage my students to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities available at Nebraska. Many students just nod their heads but never take the leap. Lilly, on the other hand, just keeps leaping! Her positive attitude and willingness to get involved are impressive given the adversity she dealt with in the past year. She had to give up her dream of competing as a collegiate athlete due to a horrific injury. Lilly could have let this injury define her, but instead, she uses it as a way to motivate and challenge herself to seek new experiences.”
She called her trip to Europe the “time of her life.” She spent six weeks in Barcelona while also traveling to Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Norway to wrap up her summer. Originally from Englewood, Colorado, Markusch came to Nebraska for the Big Ten college experience. She currently serves as the vice president of community service for Delta Sigma Pi while staying actively involved with the cross country team as their manager.
“Lilly wanted to be a Husker runner ever since we first started recruiting her,” said Nebraska Cross Country Coach David Harris. “She persevered through a redshirt year to be one of our top five runners in her second year. Just as she got her legs back, an injury did not allow her to finish out her redshirt freshman season. With further injury complications, the setback was too much to continue as a runner. Amazingly, Lilly stayed positive throughout all of this and did whatever she could because of her desire to help our team.”
Now in her third year on campus, she looks to make the most out of her upperclassman years as she prepares to enter the working world upon graduation. What could be next for the embattled 20 year old?
“I would love to work for a professional sports team in either marketing or community relations. Whatever I do, I want my job to have a purpose and have an impact in the lives of others,” she said.