There is no question when you watch Destiny Parker start her throw — she is fierce. The look on her face leaves no question that she is ready to tear down her competition. Her vigorous rotations on the platform. Round and round and round. In the blink of an eye, the hammer is launched, but all the while you are still mesmerised by Destiny.
This cutthroat demeanor, inherent in her craft, is likely the product of circumstance.
Destiny grew up in the south portion of Rialto, a city located just west of San Bernardino, in Southern California. Or, as Destiny puts it, “the hood.”
“From young ages, I have seen bodies outside my house,” Destiny says. “I have seen people get arrested, I have seen people get shot. Everyone there is pushing meth, and by the time people hit 13 years old, they are smoking weed, stealing stuff, getting involved in gangs.”
Destiny knew that if she wanted to amount to more than the lives that surrounded her, she could not succumb to the peer pressures and urges that riddled her neighborhood. She knew that staying in the confines of south Rialto would not pave the way for the future she dreamed of.
Solely for herself, Destiny stayed away from the daily vices that tempted her, knowing that she wanted to amount to more than what everybody else was. Violence, drugs and crime were elements introduced to Destiny at a young age. Thankfully, so was the sport that would pave the way for the rest of her life.
When Destiny was about 4 years old, her parents split, and she was left with the option of going with Mom or Dad. To ask this much of such a young child is a lot — most kids cannot comprehend the impact such a decision will have on the rest of their life. Luckily for Destiny, she had a special tie to her father that made the decision a little less complicated.
“I chose to go with my dad because he was also my track coach,” Destiny says. “I grew up in my dad’s house just doing track and sports, and sort of bouncing back and forth dealing with going to see my mom or just moving from apartment to apartment.”
Destiny spent most of her childhood living with her father and sister, but eventually her sister moved out and she was alone with her dad. This only added to the struggle of juggling a life between parents and households, leaving her little stable ground to stand on. But there was always one constant in Destiny’s life — track.
The sport was not only one of the few certainties in her life, but it was also an outlet that kept her out of trouble.
“I stayed away from that (life) just by the grace of myself and wanting to be more than what everybody else was,” Destiny says. “On top of that, my dad wasn’t having that. I had those times in middle school and early high school where I would do little bad stuff, but nothing super crazy.”
They say parents know best, and Destiny’s dad knew that he would not let his daughter fall into the dark traps of Rialto that had lured so many others in.
Her father introduced her to track when she was a mere 4 years old, and from then on, it became part of her everyday routine. Between the ages of 8 and 14, Destiny competed in the Junior Olympics, but once she reached high school, she was no longer eligible for club track.
When Destiny entered high school, it was a no-brainer that she would throw for her school, but she did not want to stop there. All throughout high school, she knew that she wanted to take her career to the collegiate level and that no matter what she had to do, she was going to make her long-lived dream a reality.
But dreams don’t come easy, and along Destiny’s battle to the top, her brother lost a battle of his own. During her sophomore year of high school, her brother, who suffered from cerebral palsy, died. His death affected Destiny in more ways than just grief.
“For one, he was like ‘the boy,’ so it was a hard thing on both of my parents, especially my dad, because most dads want their son to be the football star and all that stuff,” Destiny says. “I knew my dad and both my parents were struggling with the fact that my brother was disabled.”
But rather than getting lost in mourning or acting out as a result of her emotions, Destiny did not let the loss of his life take away hers as well. She used her brother as motivation to achieve the things he couldn’t.
“I knew my dad was so big on sports and my brother couldn’t really live that,” Destiny says. “I think that was something that really motivated me to stay strong in sports so I could do what my brother couldn’t. I know if he had the opportunity, if he was born able-bodied, he would have been rocking it.”
Track now had a more significant bearing on Destiny than just being a sport. The hammer throw was now a way for her brother to live through her in spirit and a way to make her dad proud. As she continued her high school career and pursued her dream, her brother was never far from her.
Come her junior year of high school, her hard work, devotion to staying away from trouble and resilience during hardship started to pay off. Destiny would have the opportunity not only to make her dreams come true but to make her family proud when UC Berkeley came knocking at her door.
The city of south Rialto is about an hour from Los Angeles, the home of the University of Southern California. USC is often the go-to school for SoCal athletes, as the university is esteemed in both athletics and academics, and is in close proximity to their homes.
But this was not the case for Destiny — she had her eyes set on the school up north.
“Going to school in L.A. for me was too close to my home and too close to my reality,” Destiny says. “I sort of wanted a utopia almost, and I feel like that’s what Cal was. It was this liberal place, the Bay Area. The closest thing you are going to get to the hood is Oakland, and it’s lowkey far from here. This was a whole different zone, a whole different environment.”
Knowing her dream was in arm’s reach, Destiny battened down the hatch on her grades and took her schoolwork more seriously than ever. While she was a good student, she knew that it would take an extra level of dedication to punch her the golden ticket to the Golden Bears. In the classroom, just as on the track, her focus kept her grounded.
Destiny went on to gain admission to UC Berkeley, her dream school, and got to wear the coveted jersey bearing three long desired letters:
C. A. L.
With her eyes set on the haven that was Berkeley, she knew she wanted to leave her familiar hood of south Rialto. This did not mean, however, that she wanted to leave whom she had become as a result of living in her hometown.
“Who I am is definitely built around where I am from, but it’s also built around where I want to go,” Destiny says. “I feel like if grew up somewhere around (Berkeley), I wouldn’t have the same guard that I have up.”
The stage was set, as Destiny knew exactly where she wanted to go to school and whom she wanted to be — but now, she was faced with the task of getting there.
“I always wanted to come to Cal,” Destiny says. (I thought) if I can go to school there, that’s a blessing in itself. But if I can wear the uniform that says ‘Cal’ on it and compete, that’s just a dream at that point.”
On March 4, Destiny Parker, former freshman walk-on, steps into the ring for one of the hundreds of times in her career.
“It is a rule that when you get in the ring, you have to wait a second before you continue with your throw,” Destiny says. “In that split second while (I am) stopped, it is just a flush of adrenaline going anywhere from my fingertips to the back of my head to the soles of my feet … and I think, ‘Right now is an opportunity to hit one.’ ”
Her throw converts to 64 yards — 16 yards farther than Cal football’s Matt Anderson’s longest career field goal of 48 yards. The remarkable throw earns Destiny the No. 6 spot on the school’s all-time hammer throw list, a milestone in her career, which began at the age of 4.
But the dream did not stop there, as simply being a Cal student-athlete was not enough for Destiny. Now she wants to be the best female thrower in the school’s history, owning the No. 1 spot on the school’s all-time top-10 list.
“I want to become All-American in both indoors and outdoors, and break the school record in the hammer,” Destiny says.
These goals will not come easily. Destiny was inches away from being an All-American in the 2017 indoor season but ultimately came up short. She has not been deterred from her goals, though, as she still has a season and half to train and make her dreams a reality.
From the hoods of south Rialto to the death of her brother to leaving her mark on one of the world’s greatest universities, she has proved to be as resilient and determined as they come.
We often utilize the term “underdog” for people with stories like Destiny Parker’s.
But Destiny did not achieve her substantial feats by bearing the mindset of a “long-shot.” Nor did she ask for pity for her upbringing. If you asked Destiny herself, she would simply say she is an “ex-hood-rich-turned-student-athlete’.
From a bad situation, she identified her utopia and did whatever it took to get there.
Some people would call that destiny.
But Destiny has no other force to thank but Destiny.
Christie Aguilar covers track and field. Contact her at caguilar.dailycal.org.