Ky Westbrook has a nationwide reach because of her sprint abilities.
The Chandler track and field star won the 100- and 200-meter races at the state meet in May with striking ease, and finished with times — 11.65 in the 100 and 24.15 in the 200 — which put her in elite company among sprinters across the country.
Westbrook did this as a sophomore, which means her 2016 Olympic goals are much more than a pipedream.
But that’s not the sole reason why Westbrook is the Tribune’s Female Athlete of the Year. She put on a show in the sprints, but she wasn’t done.
All year, she trained hard to improve her race times. Almost as an afterthought, she’d move over to the field portion of the meet and threw the shot put. It helped amass team points and is an event she may pick up for the heptathlon down the road, so why not?
Despite barely practicing all year, Westbrook finished second in Division I in the shot put with a throw of 40 feet, 9.75 inches.
For an athlete as accomplished as Westbrook, even that throw surprised her.
“It was right after my 100 and I had a whole bunch of adrenaline,” she said. “I was super happy with it since I haven’t really practiced it.”
Westbrook is far from done.
She has picked up hurdles quickly and may keep trying to add events because of her desire to do the heptathlon. While the sprints are her bread-and-butter, Westbrook has the versatility and potential to excel in the other events.
“I’ve always liked doing different things,” Westbrook said. “I like the change of mindset. I like that it takes different skills to do different things.”
That isn’t limited to track, either. Westbrook competed in baseball, basketball, soccer, gymnastics and ballet growing up. She played tennis as a freshman at Chandler and currently plays volleyball.
Westbrook credits her father, former NFL receiver Michael Westbrook, for helping her excel in so many different areas.
“My dad has always worked with me whatever I do,” she said. “Whenever I start something he’s there to help.”
There has been one setback in Westbrook’s mostly-smooth-sailing high school career. While practicing hurdles at a meet as a freshman, she tried gliding over them like the professionals, low and smooth. Instead, Westbrook caught on, tumbled to the ground and fractured her left arm.
“My coach said not to do any more practice hurdles, but I said, ‘Just let me do one more,’” Westbrook said. “I had never fallen before. It was the weirdest thing.”
The injury was a temporary detour, as Westbrook couldn’t lift weights with her teammates for the rest of the year, and had to run and throw with a cast.
She survived, and during this past year had a healthy and record-setting sophomore campaign.
The gap between Westbrook and the others in the state is so great that the question of motivation is a legitimate one. But she has broader goals than just winning local events.
“Even though in state I’m pretty up there, when I went to New Balance (National Outdoors Championships in Greensboro, N.C.) I saw all those kids and how hard they work,” Westbrook said. “I look at those junior championship times and I feel like a slacker.”
And that’s just the American competition. Westbrook gets giddy when discussing the 2016 Olympics, set for Rio de Janeiro. Westbrook may have a shot to get there either as a sprinter or in the heptathlon.
“That’s my main goal, to get to the Olympics,” she said. “I’ll always be motivated.”