Showing the heart of a champion
Reynolds' Blake Shelly finds a spot on the track team
One thing has always eluded senior Blake Shelly during his four years at Reynolds High School - a chance to pull on the Raiders' green and black uniform and compete as a member of a team. That all changed earlier this month when he lined up at the starting line for the 100-meter dash.
The 18-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, saw the sprint race as something plausible. The track was a place where he could compete against himself and work to improve his times throughout the season - a place where he could be a member of the team.
'A lot of my friends were telling me I should come out and be a manager, but I told coach (Anna) Gray that I could probably do the 100,' Shelly said. 'I've wanted to do a sport since my freshman year, but I didn't know how I could pull it off.'
He has completed two races so far this spring, drawing loud applause from spectators as he draws close to the finish line, along with plenty of post-race high-fives from his teammates. Shelly had reason to celebrate during last week's dual-meet against Gresham. Competing in the final junior varsity heat, he crossed the finish line three seconds faster than his previous best.
'It feels awesome,' Shelly said.
Everyone who sets a personal record is honored during the team's Thursday practice.
'We come up with workouts for him and a set of goals that he can work toward,' Gray said. 'He had some first-race jitters the first time out, but he was determined to get a PR (personal record).'
Despite being the shortest race during a high school meet, getting down the straightaway under his own power is a monumental feat.
Although it is difficult to know exactly what Shelly must overcome, Gray describes it as trying to walk with every muscle in your body pulling against each other.
He races with his arms up high by his face, while straining to put one foot in front of the other. Teammates wait at the finish line to offer congratulations and to assist him to his motorized scooter parked nearby. His best time in the event is 1 minute, 21 seconds.
When his race is over, Shelly can be seen moving around to the various events giving his teammates the same kind of encouragement.
'I was extremely nervous before my first race - I didn't know what to expect,' Shelly said. 'My biggest concern was not to fall until I had reached the finish. It's extremely hard - it takes everything I have.'
For any athlete giving all that they have is all that anyone can ask.