Sports historians will know the name Babe Didrikson Zaharias. She was voted by the Associated Press as the ninth greatest athlete of the 20th century – and number one among females. Didrikson seemed to do everything well when it came to sports. She began as a high-level amateur basketball player, then came to fame in track and field winning multiple gold medals at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. A year later, she took up golf – at the age of 22 – and within a few years was the most dominant women’s golfer. Didrikson played every sport she tried at an expert level, and set numerous records along the way.
Oxford senior Haley Witchella is doing her best Babe Didrikson impression this spring as a member of the Blackhawks’ track and field team.
Witchella excelled the past four years on the varsity soccer and basketball teams. In the latter of those two sports, she became the school’s second all-time leading girls scorer. The previous three springs, Witchella played on the varsity golf team, and if she had played again this year, she would have likely been one of the top two players. Instead, Witchella made her intentions known to members of the track and field team that she intended to switch sports. “I didn’t recruit her. When kids have been involved in another sport, I don’t try to take them away from that,” said Oxford’s longtime track and field coach, Irene DeJager. “A lot of kids say they want to come out for track, but I usually don’t believe it until they actually show up to practice on the first day.”