Astounding family members, former teammates, and almost everyone who meets her, Amanda Walton has fought to overcome a tragic accident that prematurely ended her time as a student-athlete at Yale.

Walton was recognized for her perseverance in recovering from debilitating injuries on Sept. 30 at the Sheraton Hyannis Resort in Cape Cod, where she received the Eastern College Athletic Conference Award of Valor.

On her way to being one of the finest female athletes ever to graduate from Yale, Walton was the victim of a horrible accident in the summer of 2000. A speeding driver who was attempting to escape the police rammed into her car. The injuries she sustained from the accident left her in a coma for over a month. When she finally regained consciousness, Walton and her doctors faced the task of dealing with her broken bones, internal injuries and the massive trauma she suffered to her brain. Hospital staff told her could not believe that she had even survived the crash.

But she did survive, and she has been in physical therapy ever since, fighting to achieve her goal of returning to Yale as a student and perhaps even as an athlete.

“On the field she was just very tenacious and driven to win and to help out,” Megan Strenski ’02, Walton’s former lacrosse teammate, said. “[She had] a lot of energy and I guess that didn’t change and carried right over with her rehab. Her perseverance and great spirit to not give up have really helped and I think she sort of viewed it as another challenge to beat.”

Entering Yale as a freshman with the class of 2002, Walton was immediately recognized for her athletic talents. She starred on both the varsity field hockey and lacrosse teams. During her freshman year, Walton was one of just four athletes in Ivy League history to be named Rookie of the Year in two sports. Walton needed just two seasons as a lacrosse offender to earn a spot in Yale’s top five all-time high scorers list. She was also named First Team All American in field hockey, and First Team All Ivy in both field hockey and in lacrosse.

“Amanda was just an amazing athlete, obviously, and seemed to elevate the team to another level with her play,” former lacrosse goalie Amanda Laws ’03 said. “[Amanda] put her heart into everything that she did in terms of play on the field.”

Walton’s coaches feel the same way as her teammates, citing her tremendous ability on the field.

“She is probably one of the best female athletes ever to come to Yale,” field hockey head coach Ainslee Lamb said.

Last month’s ECAC award was not the first distinction Walton has won for her immense strength and determination. In January 2003, she accepted the NCAA 2002 Inspiration Award. In her acceptance speech, Walton spoke of the tremendous challenges she faces and the manner in which she treats each challenge as one she would face in a sports game.

“I keep asking myself if this pain would take me out of a field hockey or a lacrosse game. The answer always is, ‘No Way!'” Walton said in her NCAA Inspiration Award acceptance speech. “By relating my situation to the most difficult and important game that I’ve ever played, I am better able to rise to this challenge and bring myself one small, but meaningful, step closer to winning.”

Her speech brought the audience to tears.

In the fall of 2001, Walton began attending lacrosse games and working as an assistant coach for the field hockey team. Teammates said they were inspired by her presence.

“It meant a lot to the team to have her there,” lacrosse defender Ashley Ford ’04 said.

Walton is now continuing with physical therapy and living with her family in Chestnut Hill, Mass. She continues to keep in contact with Yale coaches and players, and everyone who has had witnessed her struggle has gained something valuable from it.

“She was always with a smile on her face, making us laugh, truly enjoying life,” Strenski said. “I think she inspires everyone who knows her with her determination and spirit.”

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