Sammy Haynes never thought the day would come.
Not that the Manvel Mavericks’ senior thought the feat was impossible to conquer, just that any athletic accolades he ultimately received would come from another sport.
Haynes recently became the first student athlete in Alvin ISD history to capture a gold medal at the state track and field meet in the wheelchair division, May 12 in Austin. The Mavericks’ senior later collected more state hardware to add multi-medalist to his resume as well.
Haynes won the boys’ 100 meter race, finishing well ahead of silver medalist Nathan Bresee of Mansfield (18.25 seconds) third place Christian Ramirez, of Seguin (18.63). The 18-year old then claimed a bronze medal in the 400 meters at 1:06.56 and was a solid fifth in the shot put (20-1.25).
“Track wasn’t always my favorite sport, because I was more in a basketball mind-set,” he said. I was doing track on the side, but when I saw my times and how fast they were compared to other people, I said hey maybe, I should do this.
“I then started to like track more than basketball, because it’s an individual sport and it’s about getting better for yourself.
While being born with caudal regression syndrome (a rare congenital abnormality in which a segment of the spine and spinal cord fails to develop), Haynes was never one to let his disability stand in the way of his dreams either.
By age 12, he was already competing in for a wheelchair basketball team at Memorial Hermann, before learning that track athletes were being taken for the Texas Regional Games. Despite an initial reluctantly to try his hand in another sport, Haynes was convinced by tournament hosts Saul Hernandez and wife Wendy Gumbert to accept the invitation.
Haynes then managed to overcome the initial obstacles.
“The first year of track was very challenging. I had to borrow a chair and the cushion wasn’t so good, because my legs didn’t bend all the way,” Haynes said. “I was about the only kid with legs in the front. Because of that, I had to have a lot of seating pads, which helped me adjust to a lot of issues. The second year was much better. I felt better and started getting used to the chair. It just became something that I wanted to do.”
Once he got accustomed to his new surroundings, Haynes proceeded to impress many all the way into his high school years with both his relentless work ethic on the track along with the blistering times he was putting in.
Enough for the Haynes to rank as the top racer in the country in both the 100 and 400 meters at one point this season.
In fact, the only obstacle standing in Haynes’ way was finding enough regular season meets for him to compete at, Mavericks’ head track coach Jacob Jeffries said.
“We tried to call different schools during the season and tell them that we had a wheelchair athlete,” Jeffries said. “Some said they didn’t have a event for wheelchair events, but most that we contacted were willing to find a spot for him.
“We didn’t even know how fast he was until we saw him race and then we knew we had something special on our hands.”
After receiving encouragement from both Hernandez and Gumbert and other athletes to compete at state for the first time ever, Haynes made the most of the opportunity, delivering the gold medal performance in the 100 meters and then following up with a bronze in the 400.
“When they said ready in the 100, I was so scared at first, because I was going against nine people (instead of the usual six) and I didn’t know all their times,” he said. “After that first push, though, all my nerves went away. I just went through it all and didn’t look back. It was just mind blowing to become the first state (wheelchair) champion for Alvin ISD.
“The 400 was more challenging, because I’m not a long distance person. I’m training to be, but I’m not right now. For me to finish third, I’m really proud of myself, It was a good place for me.”
Haynes’ next stop will be the nationals in Alabama in July and then attending the University of Arizona next fall, where he plans on majoring in psychology and competing on the Wildcats’ wheelchair track and field team.
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