NEWTON FALLS — Track and field coach Dougle Hankins isn’t one to become emotional at a meet, but when Windham freshman Devon Reagan crossed the finish line for the first time in his career earlier this spring, the race just meant something a little different.
“He looked up and he just comes up to me and says, ‘thank you.’ That just meant the world to me — it’s pride, it’s appreciation, it’s hard to describe it,” Hankins said about Reagan. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you how that day just made me feel with him being a part of something. He loves it.
“He’s a great kid, he has a great personality, he doesn’t get embarrassed, he doesn’t get ashamed, he’s just out there having fun.”
Reagan recently began competing as a seated athlete for the Bombers track program in the 100m. In 2013, the OHSAA added a seated division for track and field championships, including the 100m, 400m, 800m and shot put, alongside the rest of the events at the state meets.
There have been other local seated athletes in recent years who have had plenty of success within the world of track and field, including Boardman’s Micah Beckwith and Canfield’s Cody Piver.
Reagan wanted an opportunity to try something new when he entered high school, starting with just a single event, but wanting to compete more down the road.
“It’s awesome, I try to go my full speed. Everybody was pushing me to do it, and it was just something I wanted to do.” Reagan said, appreciating the support from his team at the Ugly Jug invitational on Friday. “Never give up, they’re great. I’d like to do the 400m and the 800m and keep practicing. I’m trying shot, but I don’t really practice shot that much.
(Shot) just came to me — I wanted to do it. I thought I was strong enough to do it, but the first time I did it, I threw it like three inches,” Reagan added with a laugh.
Hankins has known Reagan for a long time, noting that there’s a family-like feeling between all the team members on the Bombers track team.
“He loves being a part of it, he likes joking around with the kids on the bus, and joking around with the kids back at our meeting area,” Hankins said. “He has a great time. He has a great sense of humor. If you’re cutting up with him, he’ll be the first one to cut right back so it’s really cool.”
There’s plenty of work outside of meet days that has to be put in to improve Reagan’s time and technique however. Windham lacks an all-weather track, meaning that he has to train at another nearby track or even the gym at school.
Seated athletes use a specialized wheelchair that includes a third wheel at the front of the chair, with the race ending when the front axle crosses the finish line. Athletes use custom gloves that have a flat surface to help push the hand rims or wheels for propulsion.
Reagan tallied a time of 1:05.49 the first time he competed at the Tiger Invitational at Newton Falls, improving to a 1:04.30 just a short time later at Lordstown.
When there’s a will, there’s a way — as he even uses the halls at the school for training.
“So in the middle of the hallway, there’s a square and in another ten feet, there’s a square, so that front wheel has to hit each square, so that’s how we practice,” Hankins said. “Eighth period, I’ll get him out of band sometimes, and during my planning period I’ll go and grab him and we’ll practice sometimes whenever we can make time for it.”
In his future, Reagan hopes to see himself in Columbus one day competing at the state meet for the Bombers. During his off time, he loves playing video games and watching basketball, especially his favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
His idol is Akron-native LeBron James and he wants to emulate some of the same characteristics that the NBA superstar has.
“I like his game, his sportsmanship,” said Reagan, having big objectives for his track career. “I want to get to state, that’s my goal and push my limits.”