He uses a wheelchair. He cannot stand without help. He has battled Cerebral Palsy since he was born. He has been bullied most of his life. Now, Wyatt Struxness is on his way to joining the high school track team. And not even bitter words, negative people, or a motorized machine can stop him.
Struxness has been involved in track for about six years outside of school and hopes to be the first paralympian in the district to become an official member of a high school athletic team. The University Interscholastic League Legislative Council recently approved a proposal to allow students using manual wheelchairs to take part in the 2014 Track and Field State Meet through a pilot program.
“I think it is a grand idea to include athletes that have special challenges physically,” Head Track Coach John Baskin said. “I think it is great for others to witness the determination and perseverance that specially challenged athletes have to overcome to be able to have the opportunity to compete.”
Baskin admits the news of wheelchair bound athletes competing at the UIL State Meet for this season was a surprise to most of the coaches. However, the coaches think it is a positive step and a “great idea.” According to an article written in the Dallas Morning News, wheelchair utilizing athletes are allowed to compete in the 100-meter race, 400-meter race and shot put on a trial basis. Details about qualifying times, loaner wheelchair programs, meet judging and coaching instruction are still in the beginning phases of clarification.
“Once they figure out all the logistics, it will be a really cool experience for competitors and fans alike.”
Struxness has been waiting for a chance like this to prove himself.
“I’ve always wanted to join the track team; I just never had an [opportunity] to do so until now,” Struxness said.
Struxness sees this as a great chance to showcase his talent and potential. He wants to be recognized as a role model. He wants to be known for his courage and not the student who uses a wheelchair.
“My goal is to make people see me as a person, not a weird kid in a wheelchair. There is an individual behind this that they may not see,” Struxness said.
Struxness faces his fair-share of battles daily. He was born with Cerebral Palsy: a disorder that affects the nervous system and impairs abilities like learning, movement, and thinking. Bullies and teasing have been introduced to Struxness at an early age.
“It’s mentally exhausting and physically draining. All my energy goes into fighting spasms going on every day. I’m always fatigued.”
And although life may not necessarily become easier and less painful for Struxness once he joins the track team, it may become a little more motivating and joyful for a student who wants to pave the road for people like him.
“I strive to be a role model. I want people to look up to me. And I want to show that kids with disabilities can do things; kids with physical disabilities can do wonderful things. I want people to see that.”
Struxness not only wants to set a precedent, but he wants to establish a positive and appreciative outlook. Changing people’s perspective’s on how they view track and physically disabled students is another goal of Struxness’.
“I think I can bring honor to the track team. I want the individual school body to see what I can do and what other kids like me do in the state of Texas.”
Struxness’ physical struggles are expected to continue. He will always want what others take for granted: the ability to walk.
“I always feel different. I feel different when people walk and [and hang out with their friends], because I know it’s something I’ll never have.”
On the hand, Struxness stresses the importance and value of respect. He states how respect has always been scarce from his classmates. However, being a part of the track team assures Struxness that he will finally receive the respect he deserves. And maybe that sought-for respect is what motivates Struxness the most.
On the track, Struxness doesn’t feel secluded or different.
“It feels like you’re running with people that can actually run. All your troubles go away and you’re only focused on the competition.”
Struxness will continue to fight. He will fight through his disorder. He will fight to set an example and be a role model. He will fight to make a difference. And he will fight for a spot on the track team.