CAPE ELIZABETH — In the course of a conversation inside a small office alongside the Donald Richards pool, a few of Charlotte Pratt’s teammates on the Scarborough High swim team wander through in search of this or that.

Each time, they hesitate, unsure of intruding.

“You’re good,” Pratt tells each swimmer, and adds a smile of reassurance.

For a long time – nearly 19 months – Pratt was not good.

More specifically, her left ankle, injured in a dryland training accident her freshman year, was not good. Doctors in Maine and doctors in Boston inspected the ankle and its torn ligaments. They tried physical therapy. They tried cortisone. After nine months they tried surgery.

The pain persisted.

Pratt, a 16-year-old junior, had been the Class A runner-up in two events as a freshman in 2016. She finished second to Brunswick’s Caitlin Tycz (now swimming for Southern Cal) in the 200-yard individual medley and did likewise (by .05 seconds) to Caroline Arpin of Cheverus in the 100 breast stroke.

She also led off two Scarborough relays, including the 400 freestyle that wound up second to Brunswick and clinched second place overall for the Red Storm, who edged Cheverus by five points.

A club swimmer since age 7, Pratt had dabbled in other sports but honed in on the pool by the time she reached middle school.

“It was almost all of me,” she said. “Anytime anyone would be like, ‘Tell us something interesting about yourself’ my go-to would just be like, ‘Oh, I’m a swimmer.’ ”

In May 2016, she stepped in a hole on a soccer field while running with her Portland Porpoise teammates and twisted her ankle. Throughout the summer she dutifully went through physical therapy and swam countless laps with a pull buoy held between her thighs, using only her arms to propel herself.

But the ankle didn’t improve. After seeing a few doctors in Maine, Pratt turned to Boston Children’s Hospital in the fall. Eventually, on the same February weekend that her old teammates at Scarborough were competing in the North Southwesterns meet, she underwent surgery to clean out scar tissue and tighten ligaments.

She was back on crutches, then in an air cast and finally back to physical therapy.

“And then,” she said, and paused, “it just started hurting again and no one knew why. It was really awful.”

Pratt stopped swimming. She took stock. If much of your identity is wrapped up in one activity, and that activity is taken away, what do you do? Where do you turn?

“It was a sad, scary time,” said Mackenzie Charest, a classmate, good friend and fellow swimmer for both school and club teams. “She had a very hard time with it because she had this injury that stopped her from doing the thing she loved the most.”

At 13, Charest broke her collarbone and missed an entire summer of swimming. Pratt made her a poster and collected signatures and well wishes from friends.

With swimming no longer an option, Pratt searched elsewhere for happiness. She surfed. She attended a summer writing camp at the Univerisity of Maine in Farmington. She enrolled in chorus and successfully auditioned for the District Honors Festival. She joined musical theater and performed in Scarborough High’s fall production of “Singin’ In The Rain.”

“It was really fun,” she said. “I was in the ensemble. I played a flirt in one scene. There was a lot of tap dancing and it all went great.”

A cortisone shot prior to rehearsals in September helped reduce inflammation and Pratt said learning the tap dancing steps probably turned out to be an effective form of therapy. She performed nine shows over two weekends in early October and experienced no pain.

With the winter sports season approaching, she went back to Scarborough High swim coach Eric French to ask about an offer he had made a year earlier.

“She came up to me,” French said, “and said, ‘Hey, listen, I’m done with the self-pity. I miss my teammates. Can I come back as the team manager?’ ”

So now Pratt is back on the pool deck, assisting French with workouts, organizing the distribution of suits and parkas, and doing various other administrative tasks.

“At first I would look at the kids in the pool and think, ‘That’s where I’m supposed to be. Why am I not in the pool?’ ” Pratt said. “You get that sense like, ‘Oh, man, I’m late for practice.’ But after a couple of days it was more about having them in the pool and me helping them, rather than me wanting to be in the pool with them.”

Late last week, after having only done a few open swims before Thanksgiving, Pratt received medical clearance to compete again. French entered her in Saturday’s opening meet. She swam the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke in between swimming the breast stroke leg of the 200 medley relay and leading off the 400 free relay. She won both individual events, in state-meet qualifying times (58.70 and 1:06.33), and Scarborough won both relays.

“I have no expectations,” French said. “We’re just happy to have her back, and at whatever capacity. Whether she’s swimming on the team, whether she’s a team manager.”

Pratt said she plans to continue as the team manager and if her ankle continues to heal, she plans to resume swimming as well.

“It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing,” she said. “If you want to compete sometimes, you can. It’s good to have that in-between.”

And as for that first meet, Pratt said the feeling was as if she had never left.

“It felt so natural, like everyting that I’d ever learned about swimming just came flooding back,” she said. “I felt like I was at home in the pool.”

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