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South Whidbey's McKenzie Walker dashes to the top of her field | Track
LANGLEY — When she was only a freshman, McKenzie Walker was thrilled and honored to be a part of the state champion 800-meter South Whidbey girls relay team.
And honored again the following year as the girls repeated their triumph on the track at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
A three-peat was out of the question, however, when she was sidelined in 2009 with a stress fracture.
“That was very hard for me,” Walker recalled.
Now, as a senior, she has her sights set on individual glory, a first in the 100-meter dash. And maybe the 200 and 400 as well.
A week ago, she blistered the track with a winning time of 13.54 seconds in the 100-meter dash, then brought home a first place in the 400-meter run with 1:06.73.
Walker is something of an anomaly, a home-schooled athlete who has lettered in track and cross country (including being team captain last fall) all four years at South Whidbey. In June, she’ll undergo a double graduation of sorts, with diplomas from high school and an associate of arts degree from Skagit Valley College.
The youngest of four children, Walker recalled the day her older brother came back from public school to the family’s home in Greenbank.
“He was talking trash to my mom and using bad language,” Walker said. “Our parents took all of us out of the system and we were educated at home from that point on.”
She certainly harbors no regrets.
“When I took the Running Start entrance exam for college, I had college-level scores in reading and writing,” she said. “I had to take a make-up class in math, but I got through that as well. My parents gave me an excellent education.”
She admitted that due to being taught at home, she didn’t get to spend a lot of time with friends, apart from sports and church.
“But from the first, the other kids accepted me and the high school gave me the chance to run. Really fast,” she added. “And our cross country team was especially close; we still get together for sleepovers.”
She credits Falcon coach Doug Fulton and track assistants Mark Eager, Dean Hatt and, this season, Chad Felgar, for her success.
“The coaches established challenging workouts from the first day that pushed me to my limits,” she said.
Off the track, she reads the novels of Nicholas Sparks and C.S. Lewis and confessed to the guilty pleasure of scary movies. Country singer Rod Paisley is her fave in music. Her faith, though, is an important part of her life.
“I’m a Christian, believe in God, don’t do drugs or party much,” she said. “That’s who I am. I think people should be open about things like that.”
She has no regrets about her life growing up on Whidbey.
“I’ve always found the island to be a safe haven, a shield,” she said. “I had the best childhood, no worries and lots of support in meeting my goals from friends and family.”
In September, Walker will forego college and head to Germany as part of the Christian Torchbearers International organization, to study the Bible, travel and generally expand her horizons.
“I’ve always wanted to see Europe and this is my chance, maybe the only one I’ll have,” she said. “I’ve even considered becoming a flight attendant for the free travel.”
But the world will have to wait.
For now, there’s the narrow focus of that straight-as-an-arrow 100-meter high school track that has to be overcome.
“I have faith that my times will keep dropping,” she said.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.