Oct. 14—MANCHESTER — After three years of frustration and heartbreak due to a back fracture that prevented her from playing the sport she loves, Jaeden Garro entered a high school soccer game for the first time in Cheney Tech's season opener against Ellis Tech on Sept. 10.
"It's awesome to be back," said Garro, a senior from East Hartford. "I've been going to school with all these kids, and now I get to play soccer with them. It's great. I missed it."
Garro began playing soccer at five years old and joined Connecticut Football Club when she was 10. A year later, she joined a club swimming team.
Garro elected to attend Cheney Tech — instead of East Hartford High, which has a girls soccer program — due to her interest in carpentry.
"I always wanted to go to a trade school because I've always liked working with my hands," Garro said. "East Hartford High didn't really have what I was looking for. They have a girls soccer team, but I was more interested in a trade school."
Her high school soccer career was put on hold, though, after she injured her back in a swim meet in the summer.
Garro hoped rest and medication would heal the injury, but the pain only worsened when she tried to resume swimming and soccer in the spring.
Garro began experiencing numbness in her legs, so severe that she had trouble walking. She went to a back specialist and had an MRI done, which revealed the fracture.
"There was a clear crack in the left side of my back," Garro said. "I was forced to quit swimming because of the way my back was rotating. He gave me two choices: either I keep swimming and have to have surgery, or I stop swimming and don't have to have surgery. There wasn't a need to get surgery, because it would just be a longer recovery."
Garro was cleared to resume playing soccer in October 2020, but she decided not to join the Beavers mid-season. She played for CFC in the spring.
Beavers coach Ken Leggo was overjoyed when he saw Garro's name on the list of tryout participants in the fall.
"It was awesome to see that she was going to get a chance to play," Leggo said. "Right from the start, she made her mark. In our alumni game, she put a move on a veteran and it was one of those plays where everyone stops and starts smiling and laughing."
Garro scored her first varsity goal in the Beavers 4-0 win over Vinal Tech on Oct. 5. She has added two assists.
"That goal was the highlight of the whole season," Leggo said. "To see her fight through everything like she has and come back and score a varsity goal was awesome. The bench erupted. Everyone was so happy for her. It couldn't have been a better moment. Her confidence has really grown.
"Defenses throw some big boys at her and she doesn't back down from anyone. I love having her up top in the offense. She's a very smart player. She knows the angles and what cuts to make to get herself open."
The Beavers, who beat visiting Wilcox Tech 3-2 on Wednesday to improve to 3-6-2, need five points from their final five games to qualify for the Class L state tournament.
David Pierce scored a pair of goals for the Beavers, who visit Goodwin Tech Friday. Erik Rodriguez added one goal and two assists. Goalie Matt Caron made eight saves.
Allan Tremblay and Giovanni Bautista scored a goal apiece for Wilcox Tech (5-6-0), which had its two game winning streak snapped.
Garro hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing soccer in college.
"I'm planning on going into my trade after graduation," Garro said. "But if there is an opportunity (to play in college), I would definitely take it, because I love soccer."
For daily updates on high school sports in JI's coverage area, follow Kyle Maher on Twitter: @KyleBMaher, Facebook: Kyle Maher, and Instagram: @KyleBMaher.