Anna Hayton’s life stays eventful

Former Parkersburg South center Anna Hayton has had an eventful two years while a member of the University of Charleston women’s basketball program. Dull moments have been hard to come by as she has dealt with everything from injuries and culture shock to an increased school workload and becoming an avid boater during her time as a Golden Eagle.

Life wasted little time throwing Hayton her first curveball after the UC women’s basketball season got underway. Rebounds and starting time were usually hers for the taking during her four years at Parkersburg South. Her physical brand of basketball was what Patriots’ head coach Scott Stephens wanted from his center.

She also didn’t match up against many other opponents like her on the high-school court. I will let her tell you what she figured out quickly in her first minutes of NCAA Division II action.

“Everyone was able to lift a lot more than me and there were other girls my size and bigger in the post … It slowed me down a bit,” said Hayton. “It was time for me to step it up. I lost some weight and started lifting to transform my body and can say right now I am in the best shape I have ever been in in my life.”

Her transformation wasn’t just apparent to herself, but her coaches as well. After starting just two of the Eagles’ first 11 games as a freshman, Hayton was in the top lineup 15 of the last 19 contests.

She averaged a “pretty good” 16.5 minutes per game and did her best to maximize her presence on the floor.

A summer spent strengthening her body even more with the aid of Bryan Crislip at the Elite Sports Center meant Hayton was eyeing even more starting time her sophomore season. The switch to a pescetarian diet, where the only meat you eat is fish, also aided her fast developing college game.

As mentioned above though, life wasn’t finished tossing obstacles in Hayton’s direction. A collision with teammate Abby Watson on a screen during a preseason practice left her with the “worst concussion I have ever had,” to begin her sophomore year.

She knew something was wrong immediately. Attempts to practice for the next 10 minutes were unsuccessful and for the next three weeks Hayton “was a complete zombie.” She missed classes for a week and a half and wasn’t able to do any physical activity either. The preseason and all the exhibition games were history.

A head injury meant a whole slew of tests before she could even get back on the court. She remembers it was a slow process as she wished a return to health immediately. Hayton couldn’t stand failing her protocol tests and then waiting longer to get back on the hardwood.

“The whole concussion experience was very hard for me because I was so far behind in my classes and I was losing my chance at a starting spot,” said Hayton, whose grades are very important to her given she wishes to attend a top dentistry school upon completion of her biology (major) and psychology (minor) requirements at UC.

“By the time games came around I was able to gain my spot back. (She could finally resume practicing one week before the first game of the year). It took me awhile to get caught up in my classes. It was very stressful to me. I had to make up all my work I had missed on top of the present assignments. I even had to quit my job at Rite Aid during this time.”

She got her starting wish last season. Though absent 10 games with an ankle injury and a broken hand, Hayton started in all 21 games she played in and averaged 24 minutes, 10 points and 6.8 rebounds. She also plans to use her experiences going forward into her junior year.

“Overall, I would say to have a season where you are constantly injured is both mentally and physically exhausting,” she said. “You have to watch your teammates play games and you can’t do anything to be able to be out on the court with them. And I had to keep starting over with being out of shape. It really got me out of a rhythm. However, I do think that my season was a learning experience on health and injury prevention.”

The year wasn’t entirely stressful. Hayton finally convinced a friend of hers who lives in Charleston to get her boat out of storage to go cruising on the Kanawha River. Hayton even stepped behind the wheel for a bit of fun.

“Driving a boat is the easiest thing I have ever done,” said Hayton. “You just push the thing, I can’t remember what it is called, and you go faster.”

Parents Dana and John Hayton shouldn’t be surprised if Anna calls for a lift home from a boat dock later this year either. She would have no problem riding the waves back home to Parkersburg.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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