Ben Whitenack really is kind of amazing

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
Healdsburg senior swimmer Ben Whitenack is the Press Democrat’s boys’ athlete of the week. (To read the story, click here).
Before I spoke with Whitenack, I interviewed Santa Rosa Neptunes coach Dan Greaves about his swim star. Greaves gave me the quote I used in the story, “He’s really an amazing kid. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.”
Now, I don’t consider myself particularly cynical, but I’ve heard plenty of coaches deliver similar lines over the years. And, honestly, you begin to wonder: Are there really this many amazing, unfailingly kind teenagers out there?
But then I had a 20-minute phone conversation with Whitenack and understood what Greaves was talking about. Whitenack was polite. Humble. Intelligent. And, yes, kind of amazing.
Here’s a few odds and ends that I couldn’t cram into the story:
* As an eighth grader, Whitenack was hit by a car while riding his bike home from swim practice. He suffered a basal skull fracture, two broken arms, a broken knee and his jaw was broken in four places. He made a full recovery, but still suffers occasional jaw pain. He doesn’t swim the breastroke because the stroke hurts his knee.
* He entered last year’s North Coast Section Championships seeded 16th in the 100 backstroke. He won the NCS title, becoming the first Healdsburg swimmer to do so.
* He was the founder and president of Healdsburg’s International Club. He has served as his class vice president and secretary/treasurer. He has also been vice president of the French Club and was Healdsburg High’s first ambassador to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco. Oh yeah, he was named Healdsburg’s Prom King this past weekend.