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ACL tear derails Halle Winjum's senior season, but Crookston star isn't going anywhere

Jan. 16—GRAND FORKS — On June 22, Halle Winjum was playing at UND's team camp with her Crookston girls basketball teammates.

Winjum injured her leg after a fall, but she didn't think the injury was serious. The diagnosis was a torn ACL, an injury she called "heartbreaking."

It couldn't have come at a worse time for Winjum. It was the summer before her senior year of high school, and she was looking forward to playing one last season with teammates she grew up with.

Winjum also hadn't yet committed to a college to play women's basketball when she tore her ACL. In the stands at UND's camp were coaches from the University of Minnesota Crookston, watching Winjum.

"The new head coach ... That was one of her first times coming to check me out," Winjum said. "Of course I went down. That wasn't the game plan."

She worried her injury would deter coaches or push back her commitment. Her injury actually did something else: It proved that staying home and committing to UMC was the best move for her.

And it wasn't just because of basketball.

During her junior year, Winjum reached out to coaches at Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State Moorhead, UMary and Minot State.

Then, in May, Natalie Moynihan reached out to Winjum. The new head coach put Winjum's hometown college on her radar, something Winjum hadn't considered.

"UMC kind of came out of nowhere," she said. "I wasn't honestly looking at sticking around. I was like, 'No, I have to get out of this town and go see a new town, meet a lot of new people.' But she reached out and that just sparked something completely new."

Moynihan was in constant communication with Winjum after her ACL tear, something that stuck out to Winjum.

The community support was also a big selling point.

"I've always felt support and love from this community, but once I was injured, that's when I noticed that the most," Winjum said. "A lot of people just showed their love and their concern for me and wanted to help in any way possible. I'm still such an indecisive person. Deciding on a college was a big decision for me, and I was like, 'How am I going to do this?'

"But a lot of signs were just pointing to Crookston. A big one was just this community, because I knew they loved me. I was excited to announce that I won't be leaving or going anywhere far. Once I let the town of Crookston know, I definitely heard from them again. They were excited for me and to watch me again in the future. That was one of the big reasons I knew I wanted to stay here a little longer."

Winjum verbally committed at the end of July, a month after her injury.

She's approaching six months since her surgery, which was Aug. 2. She hasn't ruled out competing in track and field or tennis in the spring, but Winjum is planning on waiting until nine months post-surgery to play.

Winjum is still helping her high school team as a captain for the second consecutive year, running some drills and giving pep talks before games. She didn't get the opportunity to play her final year of high school, but the chance to play at UMC has eased that.

"I would have no closure if I wasn't playing in the future, or even going somewhere other than UMC. My season just ended in the blink of an eye, and I wasn't prepared for it whatsoever," she said. "It definitely does help that I know I will be playing again in this great town."