When Avylina Powell-Qualo went down with a torn knee ligament during a basketball game in December, it meant the end of her high school basketball career. It could also have dashed her hopes of playing sports in college. She wasn’t willing to let that happen.
Her perseverance and persistence paid off when she committed to play basketball and run track at Evangel University next season. Coach Tori Mooneyham, who has been alongside Powell-Qualo for both sports for the past four seasons, said Powell-Qualo simply refused to let her dream die.
“A lot of kids would have just given up, but she was determined to get that scholarship,” Mooneyham said. “She was reaching out to schools…and she was going to make that happen.”
For Powell-Qualo, it was an obvious course after learning more about her injury.
“I just know an ACL is one of the most common injuries, so… I talked to a lot of people that have had it before and they’re like, ‘Do not give up. You will come back stronger than you ever were.’ That really helped me get in the mindset of ‘I’m not done yet.'”
Basketball coach Kris Flood said it’s been a “wonderful thing” to be able to coach Powell-Qualo. “This kid’s got a tremendous amount of faith and she has a tremendous work ethic. There’s no doubt in my mind that she will bounce back and she’s going to be a great grab for Evangel University.”
The opportunity to play basketball in addition to running track was an important consideration for Powell-Qualo, who said she passed up a track offer from Missouri State because of her love of basketball.
“I love both, but I wouldn’t be able to just give up basketball because I’ve been playing that since I was little,” she said. “Getting to that college level is really exciting, because I know it’s going to be a lot more intense.”
Despite missing half her senior basketball season and all of her senior track season, Powell-Qualo has left her mark on Republic athletics. She finished as state runner-up in the high jump last season and holds the school record at 5’6″, which she set in 2017. She’s also part of two other records as part of two relay teams in the 4x200m and 4x400m relays.
In addition to her track accomplishments, she was a big part of the basketball team’s success in recent years. Even after being injured at mid-season, she was a spiritual and emotional leader for the Lady Tigers on their run to the final four last winter.
Evangel track coach Edward Sands said he first became aware of Powell-Qualo when she sent him an email about attending Evangel.
“Our basketball coach was really high on her. Talking to Coach Mooneyham, she said this is probably one of the best athletes and [people] she’s ever coached,” said Sands. “When you get high praise, especially from an EU almuni (Mooneyham), you’ve got to really look into it and really take interest in it. It turns out, she was right about her so far. I really like the person I’ve gotten to know throughout this process.”
Mooneyham still remembers the first time she realized Powell-Qualo’s potential.
“The summer before her freshman year, we had some basketball shootouts, and all the…starters from the eighth grade season went to Washington D.C., and I was told I was going to get this kid, and I thought ‘Well, who is she? Is she even going to be able to play JV level?’” Mooneyham recalled. “But I needed more kids that summer, and that first game, I was like, ‘Wow, who is this kid?” I knew right then she was going to be something special for both track and basketball. Her athleticism alone is impressive.”
But more than her athletic ability, Mooneyham said she’s “very proud of…the person she is, and I’m going to miss her a great deal.”