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Injury proves blessing in disguise

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? - Knee surgery brings his swim career to a close, but introduces Grant Hayball to the world of triathlon
by: submitted photo Grant Hayball, formerly of Boring, shows off a medal won at a recent triathlon. He has won three races this summer with hopes of competing in the Iron Man.

For most athletes, the words 'torn ACL' and 'torn meniscus' typically mean the end of a career, but for Sandy's Grant Hayball, those words turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Hayball, a 1998 graduate of Sandy High School, grew up in the swimming pool at the Blue Marlin Swim Club, where he developed into one of the area's best swimmers. While in high school, Hayball qualified for the state swim meet in four consecutive years including a top five finish in the 200-meter freestyle his senior year.

In addition to his success on the swim team, Hayball also competed on the Pioneers water polo team, where he helped the team to an undefeated season and sixth place finish at state that same year. Both of those accomplishments become even more impressive when you remember that the state competition for both sports was a combination of athletes and teams from all divisions.

After high school, Hayball earned a full-ride scholarship to Linfield due to both his academic and athletic accomplishments. In his freshman year at Linfield he earned Northwest Swimmer of the Month honor on multiple occasions and he placed at the Northwest Championships in all three of his events (200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, and 200 breastroke). Looking to build on that success as a sophomore, Hayball was on pace to qualify for the national meet when disaster struck.

Part way through the season, Hayball's doctor relayed the bad news that he had torn both his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus, meaning his season was over.

'It was life altering because I went from wanting to swim well at nationals to going in the opposite direction due to injuries,' he said.

As a result, Hayball returned home after his sophomore year to redshirt and to serve on a mission for his church. After two years off, Hayball went back to school for his junior season but unfortunately it was nothing like he was expecting.

'I went back, still on scholarship, and swam my junior year but it was kind of discouraging because I just wasn't as fast and my knee was an issue so I had to swim short distance freestyle,' he said, 'and now I had spent two years limping and hopping, my back was jacked up, and I needed to go to the chiropractor, so I just wanted to function again.'

While all of that was important, however, one thing was for sure: quitting was not an option. Hayball returned one more time for his senior season, gutting it out through the pain while advancing to the northwest finals and helping the team to a second place finish there.

After school, Hayball was advised by his doctor to look toward other avenues for ways to strengthen his legs and one recommendation was cycling.  The idea was that the more muscle that Hayball could build surrounding his knee, the faster he would be able to recover and get back to normal.

In addition to cycling, Hayball fell in love with trail running as a means of staying in shape and suddenly everything clicked.

The tragedy of a life-altering knee injury had suddenly paved the way for an elite triathlete.

'After graduating graduate school from Portland State, my wife and I moved to North Carolina where my co-worker was on the triathlon team in Asheville, so in 2009 I joined and started placing well, and even though I didn't win anything, I finished second four times and my right knee was no longer an issue at all,' he said.

After he and his wife Autumn, a graduate of Western Oregon, decided to move back to Oregon, Hayball landed a special education job at Grants Pass High School, where he now works. The couple have two children - 3-year-old Logan and Addison, eight months.

Since returning to Oregon, Hayball won five races in 2010 and has already won three more in 2011 while qualifying for nationals within his age group.

'I definitely wonder where to go from here because I'm a really good swimmer and a pretty decent runner, but for the longer distance races I need to get better as a cyclist,' he said, 'but as for right now, the Olympic distance is my best distance because it is a one mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, and 6.2 mile run.'

One goal that he has for the future is to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, but despite his big aspirations, he will always have the Sandy community on his mind.

'I'm a big supporter of Sandy because I was born and raised here and I'm always trying to give back to the community because I was lucky enough to receive a good education from some excellent teachers who motivated me to get into education,' he said.