Digby has ‘can do’ attitude (05-22-13)
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:36
TONTOGANY - Since a very young age, Otsego's A.J. Digby has embraced a "can do" attitude.
|Otsego’s A.J. Digby competes in the pole vault earlier this season. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
That mantra has stuck with him as he has made an immediate impact on the Knights' track team as a freshman. The team will compete in the Division II district meet that starts today at Oak Harbor High School.
"He is a dedicated kid and is willing to put in the hard work it takes," said Otsego coach Ryan Hafner. "He is always looking to do what he can to improve."
Digby was born with Fibular Hemimelia, which means his fibula bones did not form correctly. He had feet, but they were small and twisted outwardly.
As a result, he underwent surgery at age 1 and had both of his legs amputated. He uses prosthetic legs.
"I do everything normal kids do, I just had to learn it a different way," Digby said. "I've played pretty much every sport kids do growing up."
He's not kidding.
Football, sled hockey, baseball, track and basketball are among his repertoire. He plans to play golf in the fall for the Knights.
Having lived with prosthetic legs nearly all his life, Digby has never let it slow him down.
"I've never really been told I can't do things, because I can do everything," he said. "When I was little, my saying was, 'A.J. do it,'"
For track, Digby uses "cheetah blades." These carbon-fiber blades, designed to mimic the human foot, ankle and muscles, received headlines during the 2012 London Olympics. Controversy erupted when South Africa's Oscar Pistorius competed in the Games using the blades.
"Some people say it's an advantage (using the blades), but I believe it isn't," Digby said. "If it was an advantage, how come he wasn't beating people?"
Prior to Pistorius being charged in his girlfriend's slaying, the Olympic athlete was someone Digby could relate to, but he didn't idolize him.
"I want to be me. I don't want to be anybody else," he said.
While always optimistic, Digby admits there have been times of struggle.
"Every so often you get the question of 'Why',' but then you think God put me in this position because he knows I can handle it," Digby said.
Having a solid support group of his parents, Gordon and Robin Digby, family, friends, teammates and coaches also helps.
Hafner said Digby's teammates do not treat him any differently and he is a valuable asset to the team.
"His teammates know what kind of athlete he is. They know he is a benefit to the team and they see how much work he puts in," Hafner said.
Typically with a freshman, Hafner said, it takes time to adjust.
But Digby has filled his role quickly. He is in the top 10 of point scorers for Otsego and will earn his varsity letter as a freshman.
Digby competes in the 800 and 1,600 relays and the 400 meter run. He has also competed in discus and pole vault.
"He has really improved in the 400, but I have been surprised by his speed in the 200 (relay)," Hafner said.
The 400 is his marquee event. His season best is 56.6 seconds.
Being able to run the 400 consistently in 56 seconds was an individual goal this season for Digby.
But his goals extend beyond himself.
"I just want to be able to help the team as much as I can," he said.
Digby will continue to hone his skills this summer as he plans to compete in several paralympic meets. He will travel to Puerto Rico, Michigan, Texas and Minnesota for the competitions.