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Natural fuel: Turnroth turns allergies into an advantage

Newman's Laura Turnroth is the starting pitcher for the Comets. Just as she has to locate her pitches to avoid big innings, Turnroth must manage her diet to avoid catastrophe. She is allergic to citric acid, milk and eggs.
Newman's Laura Turnroth is the starting pitcher for the Comets. Just as she has to locate her pitches to avoid big innings, Turnroth must manage her diet to avoid catastrophe. She is allergic to citric acid, milk and eggs.

Many teenagers struggle to feel comfortable in their own skin. That cannot be said for both ends of Newman’s softball battery.

Catcher Jaimie Hurd can thank her pitcher and co-captain Laura Turnroth, who, in turn, can thank her sister, Molly.

The sisters share more than the bond one would expect. They also share allergies to citric acid, milk and eggs.

The younger sibling watched the elder try to cloak her allergies, in order to avoid social rejection. Laura promised herself she wouldn’t repeat her sister’s mistakes.

“There are two ways you can deal with it,” she said. “You can either try to hide from it and pretend you don’t want to eat those things, or you can just be really open about it. I’ve just chosen to be open about it.”

“I don’t want my friends to judge me because I have allergies. That just seems ridiculous.”

Blessing in disguise

When life hands Laura lemon juice, she’s likely to break out in hives. Processed citric acid? Well, that outcome is even worse.

So she sticks to an all-natural diet.

“She’s dealt with it very, very well and has denied herself a lot of things,” her father and softball coach, Rick Turnroth said.

The absence of processed foods might make the average teenager uncomfortable. Laura, on the other hand, has grown grateful for her hereditary blessing in disguise.

“It helps, because I can’t have the readily made bad things,” Laura said. “I can’t just go to the store and get store-bought cookies.

“I get a little extra bonus. Automatically, I just have to choose better things. Instead of grabbing a candy bar. I have to get grapes.”

Sharing is caring

Laura’s pregame meal of choice is a big bed of whole-wheat pasta with chicken, those chief ingredients providing her with ample carbohydrates and protein. Neither red, nor white sauce are an option.

For away games, she knows she has to pack for two.

“I always have to pack an extra sandwich for Jaimie,” said Laura, whose standby is turkey on pita bread with butter. “If I’m holding a sandwich out, she’ll come by and take a bite before I look. It’s ridiculous.”

Because of her jackrabbit-fast metabolism, Laura must nibble on a sandwich or a granola bar between innings.

“Which means, I’m eating, too,” Jaimie said, causing both best friends to break out laughing. “Before, I was more of a McDonald’s kind of girl. But all of her food tastes really good. I was really surprised. Now anytime she has food, I’m like, ‘Oh! Give me a bit.’ “

Jaimie used to “enjoy” fast food almost every day.

But, thanks to Laura’s influence, Jaimie has had little to no fast food over the past 6 months. Post-McDonald’s naps used to be customary. Now, her body thanks her for a more natural diet.

“If I stay the night at her house, or anytime I’m with her, I have so much energy,” Jaimie said. “When I eat McDonald’s, I always just want to go to sleep.”

Rick Turnroth used to poke fun, telling Jaimie she should invest in McDonald’s stock. A bit darker of a joke, Laura used to jab, saying her close friend’s arteries would be clogged by age 30.

Those days are gone. A few days ago, Jaimie was bellyaching for fast food, but Laura made a mixed vegetables run. Jaimie didn’t slip away for her fix while Laura was gone.

“I am definitely proud of her,” Laura said.

Sweet payback

Every great friendship is a two-way street, and all good catchers keep a thumb firmly on the pulse of their pitcher. Jaimie can sense if something’s askew during a game, whether it’s a pitch that isn’t working or a rumbling stomach.

“I get cranky when my blood sugar is low,” Laura said. “She can tell by my attitude.”

“We’ll just call a quick timeout,” Jaimie said.

“We just get back in the zone, and that’s the best part about having your best friend as your catcher,” Laura said.

They have been looking out for each other since their sisters were in the same class at Newman, but the bond truly galvanized last year when they were the only juniors on the softball team.

Whereas Jaimie quickly latched onto Laura’s diet, and the rest of her friends and their families readily embrace her dietary limitations, others need a calm, level-headed explanation.

Rick recalls Laura’s traveling team playing in the ASA World Series in College Station, Texas. Laura broke out a sandwich between innings, and her coach nearly broke a few blood vessels.

“Her coach kind of came unglued, and she said, ‘I have to’ and explained it to her,” Rick said, laughing.

Next-level talent

For Laura, helping her best friend overhaul her diet is merely scratching the surface of her potential.

She’s taken an athletic training class with Andy Accardi, who fills that role for Newman.

While millions of fans recoiled Sunday evening, as they watched the equally improbable and gruesome compound fracture Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware suffered, Laura had a different instinctive response.

“Those are the moments as an athletic trainer that you don’t hope for,” Laura said. “Obviously, that’s a really bad injury. But that’s your time to shine. You’re the one to take control of the situation and help the athletes.”

Laura recently learned in Accardi’s class how quickly exposed bone needs to be covered, and how little time it takes for infection to set in. But it’s the longer term of care athletic trainers provide that makes her eyes light up.

“I just can’t imagine all the emotions he has to have, losing his career at such a high level, in such a big game,” Laura said. “It would just be awesome to be able to work with him through his recovery, and get him to a point where he can recover.”

She plans to attend North Central College in Naperville and is considering a major in either athletic training or biology. She would like to work nutrition into a minor.

“It would be awesome to help other people learn how to get in tune with their bodies,” Laura said.

No matter how many books she reads or Dean’s lists she makes, perhaps nothing will teach Laura more than her allergies have.

“Some people with allergies want to take a pill or grow out of it, so they can still eat the things they’re allergic to,” she said. “I think it’s helped me stay more aware of my body, because I always know what I’m putting into it. And if my body tells me it doesn’t want something, I’m not going to eat it.”

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