SIOUX CITY | Hayley Walkowski, one of triplets, doesn't buy into the legend that a twin or triplet can sense when something has happened to their sibling.
"My sister claims she knew right away when I got hurt," says Walkowski, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee at the end of her freshman year at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan.
That would be sister Kelsey, who is one minute older.
The oldest? That's Christopher, born two minutes ahead of Hayley. "Christopher is so sweet," Hayley says, "he offered me one of his ACLs."
The offer makes me laugh, then has me considering the possibility. If an ACL donor program were ever to fly, the Walkowski triplets would turn the engine. Christopher, after all, cannot attend his sister's game today in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championship at the Tyson Events Center because he's in South Carolina with their mother, Kristi Walkowski, interviewing for graduate school. Christopher, a senior at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, wants to be a cardiac perfusionist.
Sister Kelsey isn't in Sioux City, either. Like Christopher, she's a senior at Grand Valley State. Like Christopher, she's immersed in medical study, and has opted to spend her spring break studying for the national board exams in diagnostic synography.
That leaves the last of this "triple threat" awaiting an appearance in the national basketball tournament. I suppose Hayley, the most accomplished athlete of the three, isn't into needles and sutures and such? Well, I'd be wrong. This Lawrence Tech Blue Devil wants to get into a field her computer doesn't recognize.
"I've taken three courses on biomaterials and my computer's spell-check doesn't recognize the word," says Walkowski, a biomedical engineering major. "It's what I want to do. I'd like to work for a maker of medical devices and test or come up with implants."
Walkowski, who has a 3.88 grade-point average, spent last summer working in the orthopedic research lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
"When I graduate, I'll try to find a job in the field," she says, indicating she doesn't want to follow her siblings into graduate school or medical school. "I'm ready to be done with school, for now."
That leaves this week as a time for Walkowski and her Blue Devils to find their footing at the national tourney. Walkowski was a sophomore when Lawrence Tech last earned a berth in this classic, a short-lived appearance that ended with a 30-point loss to Cardinal Stritch University. The game was marred with the ejection of then-coach Mary Pinkowski of Lawrence Tech.
"Everything about our last trip to Sioux City was great, except for the game," Walkowski says. "You could say we're looking to redeem ourselves."
Coach Kylene Spiegel, in her second year at the helm for Lawrence Tech, hopes the season continues as long as possible, if, for no other reason, to delay a send-off to Walkowski, who averages 14 points and leads the club in rebounding.
"Hayley's my litttle 'Mighty Mouse,'" Spiegel says of Walkowski, who weighed 3 pounds at birth. "She's so good on both ends of the floor. She's our motor; when Hayley's good, we're good. It will be tough to say goodbye to her."
Walkowski is anxious for the game on Thursday, ready to see how her knee and her team continue to respond. Her dad, Mark Walkowski, is making the long drive from Michigan to see the team in action.
The trek, some 791 miles, is something the Blue Devils and their medical marvel kept in mind the past two years. That's the distance from the Lawrence Tech campus to the Tyson Events Center. The team covered it -- happily -- in a pair of six-hour drives earlier this week.
"When the season began, we were picked to finish sixth in our conference," Walkowski says. "We ended up setting the school record for wins in a season (25) and getting an at-large berth in the national tournament. Seven-hundred-ninety-one: That was our end goal. We put 791 on t-shirts and on Twitter. And, we got here."
Before Walkowski steps onto the court for the Blue Devils' game against Hastings College at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, she'll tug at her knee pads and join her team in prayer, a prayer she concludes the same way every game: "I hope no one -- on either team -- gets hurt today."