CONNELL -- It's not often a pulled hamstring can be viewed as a good thing.
For Connell's Maci Whitby, though, there is no other way to look at it.
As a freshman, Whitby hurt her hamstring while running the 200 meters for the track and field team. Rather than stop competing, she decided to try the discus.
The rest, as the old adage goes, is history.
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Whitby won the district title and went on to finish eighth at state.
"She is an extremely gifted athlete," Connell girls track coach Dan Colby said. "She is very versatile -- she's got speed and strength, which is a rare combination."
Whitby's sophomore year was one of family turmoil, as her dad, Lared, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Maci Whitby ended up only competing half the track season before quitting to focus on family.
With her father's disease in remission, she returned to track full time as a junior. Her coaches convinced her to try the shot put to go along with her favorite event.
"I didn't really care about the shot put initially," she said. "I had qualified for the Pasco Invite in the discus and was standing next to the ring, when my mom (Kim) was looking through the program and saw that I had qualified and been entered into the shot put -- I had no idea.
"She started yelling at me from the stands that I had to go compete in the shot put. I didn't really care about the event until I broke 30 (feet)."
Whitby eventually went to state in both events, placing fourth in each as a junior last year.
After talking to some college coaches who thought her slight, 5-foot-7 stature could hurt her competing in throwing events at the college level, she decided to try some running events her senior season. After all, she figured, she might compete in the heptathlon at the next level.
"I didn't want to have any regrets," she said. "This is the first year I can run and it doesn't hurt. It feels great.
"I like running because it is a completely different feel than throwing. It is a different atmosphere. Most throwers don't get to experience that. I love being in the blocks and being ready to go, plus it makes my mom happy."
Kim Whitby ran track for Kennewick and has been an avid supporter of Maci's and sister Kennidi's careers.
"My mom is a superwoman," Maci said. "I'm not sure how she does it. She still manages to get to all of our meets."
While Whitby has competed in both hurdle races this season, along with the shot and the discus, she will run the 4x400 relay rather than the 300 hurdles at the district meet Friday.
"If I had made it to state, the 300 hurdles and the shot put would've been at the same time," she said. "They don't plan around the running and throwing events."
While the WIAA certainly wasn't expecting to have an athlete as diverse as Whitby at the state meet, her family and coaches were.
Her coaches often joke with her, "If you don't want to do events, then quit being good in all of them."
While Whitby has plenty of reasons to be cocky about her obviously immense athletic skills, she still said her favorite thing in life is hearing her dad tell her he is proud of her.
Lared has been in and out of the hospital the last few years but has made it to every meet this season except last week's sub-district meet. The family is unsure whether he will make the district meet this weekend, but Maci hopes he will be able to get up to Cheney to watch the state meet.
"It is definitely more fun to have them both (Lared and Kim) there," she said, "and to have them there in the car to talk to on the way home. My parents are really supportive."
And with good reason, because they've raised one exceptional daughter.
* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509; email@example.com