Car crash leads MCC record-setter to career change

Lucia Archuleta
Wednesday, January 17, 2024

It was Independence Day, 2018, and Lucia Archuleta was in her last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS). She was driving to an internship and approaching an intersection when a texting teenager ran a red light, crashed into her and dramatically changed her life – the first time.

Some may remember Archuleta as McCook Community College's 2016 commencement speaker. She attended MCC to play basketball, enrolled in a rigorous scientific path, maintained a 4.0 grade-point-average and set the school record for 3-pointers made (128) during her career.

Archuleta was also a captain on the record-setting team that went 29-4. Off the court, she served as student ambassador, a Phi Theta Kappa member and a tutor for chemistry, biology, history and anatomy and physiology.

“I would always recommend the JUCO route, especially if you’re young and don’t know for sure exactly what you want to do,” said Archuleta. “Let’s face it, at 18 or 19 you don’t really know what you want to do with your life, but you’re young enough to think you know everything.”

After MCC, she went to Ottawa University in Kansas. She considered becoming a physician’s assistant and played basketball for a semester then got sick. With the time demands and all the prerequisites needed for her medical degree, Archuleta decided to step away from basketball, moved back home to Colorado Springs and enrolled at UCCS. Her focus was getting accepted to PA school.

Her life still appeared headed in the right direction until the car crash put her in the hospital and paused everything for eight months.

The Recovery

The accident totaled Archuleta’s car and resulted in a spine injury that left her with no sensation in her leg. She used a cane to help walk, but because of all the medical issues she had to cut back from full-time student to part-time. Archuleta spent much of the next eight months in various surgeries, a daunting schedule of appointments, medication changes and therapy.

“I went through 26 trigger point injections, all types of medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy – all to get better, but nothing helped,” Archuleta said, adding that as a medical student she diligently complied to whatever the medical professionals advised.

Successful back surgery did restore the feeling in her leg and allowed her to walk without a cane, but the back pain never went away. She was discouraged.

“I was in my early 20s and looking at a future where I would be taking pain medication for the rest of my life,” Archuleta said.

Someone asked her if she’d ever seen a chiropractor. No, nobody in her family ever received any treatment.

She scheduled an appointment and went in for a 20-minute adjustment that changed her life again – this time for the better.

The “Adjustment”

“I got more relief in those 20 minutes than in the prior eight months of surgery, injections and medications,” she said.

She asked the chiropractor to explanation exactly what he had done and why. She was full of questions and inspired. Why did it work when nothing else did? Knowing what kind of impact the treatment gave her changed her perspective. Archuleta decided to become a chiropractor.

Pain-free, she finished up her final year of undergrade studies at UCCS in the spring of 2020, then found a chiropractor program at Cleveland University in Kansas City and enrolled that fall.

“Even though it’s in Kansas City, when I visited there, I remember thinking that it was similar to McCook – the campus is small and everyone is there to support you and make sure you’re taken care of,” Archuleta said.

Last month, she finished a three-year path to earn her chiropractic doctorate from CU-KC. In the past year, Archuleta worked with chiropractors who treat professional athletes, did a preceptorship last fall (similar to a medical residency) and worked with a mentor who was the first chiropractor to work with current and past Olympic athletes.

In a satisfying bookend to the start of her academic life, the school competed in the “Chiro-Games” this past fall where she competed in basketball, dusted off her 3-point stroke and was one of the leading scorers in a tournament in which her team won.

Archuleta hopes to open her own practice in Colorado Springs and next month will begin certification for the Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) program.

The Visit Home

She and her fiancé Nate Matuza (a former MCC baseball player and a 2017 grad) returned to MCC earlier this month to watch the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

“We always said we’d come back,” she said. “We knew we would, and we’re glad we did.”

Archuleta said MCC presented a realistic foundation for career paths and gave her an informed and insightful glimpse into the options for a medical-based career.

“You can have drams to play professional sports and continue with that goal, but at some point – if you don’t want to or you just can’t – you can walk away on your own terms,” she said. “Two-year schools like MCC give you a chance to see who you are.”

She still talks to former teammates and Coach Jon Froelich, who recruited her, as well as current MCC Women’s Basketball Coach Brandon Pritchett.

Archuleta said as a freshman on campus, MCC made it easy for her because everybody understood most of the students were 18 and away from home.

“Faculty, staff and coaches made my transition smooth, yet set high standards,” she said.

That record-setting season

Of the 2016 team, Archuleta recalls that the year before, the team finished at about .500. Coming into their sophomore year Froelich made it a point to establish goals and standards both as a team and as individuals.

As a freshman guard in 2014-15, the team went 15-16, and Archuleta averaged 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game - shooting 41.7 percent from the 3-point line. The following year, when the team went 29-4, she averaged 9.7 points and 4.2 rebounds and shot 42.6 from the 3-point line. She was selected all-conference and an honorable mention all-Region IX player.

“Coach Froelich inspired us to want to leave MCC with something to remember,” Archuleta said.

The team won the Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference championship, lost in the semifinals of the Region IX tournament and was considered as a wildcard entry for the national tournament but was not selected.

Archuleta said she will always have fond memories of snow days and road games, supporting the other athletes at their games, being involved with PTK, helping stage fun events and being part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

From the stands she looked out at the basketball court where she started her path.

“This will always feel like home,” she said.