Take a peek from a few miles away and it appears Chandler senior Ky Westbrook had a sensational track season. She took home four state titles in the 100, 100 hurdles, 200 and shot put, and the Wolves took home their ninth consecutive state title due in large part to her efforts.
A closer look, however, reveals a difficult season burdened by the weight of expectations and a nagging hamstring injury that slowed her down and prevented her from reaching the greatness she attained in 2013. That season concluded with Westbrook taking three individual titles — she completed her career with a total of 12 titles in individual and relay events — and setting state records in two events, the 200 and shot put, in the process.
“Coming into this year I felt huge pressure to outdo myself,” she said. “I think maybe that affected me a little bit. I’m used to being an underdog a little bit.”
Then again, following up a season as epic as the one she had in 2013 is a difficult task for just about anyone, and a down year for Westbrook — she still took home four state titles and paced the Wolves to that title — would serve as a dream season for many athletes. It at least proved to be enough for her to garner recognition as a Tribune Athlete of the Year for the third straight year.
That’s the tricky thing about success though, as the expectations set by Westbrook as a junior were ridiculously difficult to meet and especially to exceed as a senior. She didn’t just excel against local competition either — Westbrook won the 100 at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine last summer, giving her the title as one of the best under-18 female sprinters in the world.
The totality of her achievements led Chandler coach Eric Richardson to call her, “the best I’ve ever seen” — especially impressive given the number of high-caliber athletes he’s coached at Chandler.
Winning would never be enough; rather, the objective set for her heading into the final year of high school was to break even more records and complete a magic season.
She fell short of greatness, but she was still good enough to achieve excellence, and falling short of those spectacular goals offered her a few lessons as she transitions out of her high school years.
“This season was difficult and challenging, but it definitely humbled me more,” she said.
She’ll face off against tough competition as she tries to defend her 100-meter title at the adidas Dream Mile in New York on June 14, and she’ll do so while keeping tabs on the hamstring that’s started to flare up again.
After that is the start of her freshman year at the University of Southern California, which she selected over track factory Oregon, Texas and UCLA.
The start of her college career will begin a shift in her priorities as an athlete. She could continue to serve as an all-around competitor and compete in events like the heptathlon, which adds in the javelin, high jump, long jump and 800 to what she already competes in.
The more likely shift, the one Westbrook herself expects to occur, is a switch from her status as an all-around athlete to a pure sprinter, meaning she’d compete solely in the 100 and 200.
The logic behind the move is based on her potential success in those events; it could bring her Olympic gold — she anticipates competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 2016 games even though she’ll be much younger than her competitors — and it could build to a professional career after graduation.
“She could be one of the top sprinters in the world,” Richardson said. “For her growth and development she must focus on the 100-meter and the 200-meter.”