“My motto is limitations only exist if you let them,” said Tyler McComic.
And this 16-year old does not let limitations exist.
Go-karts, baseball, hunting and singing are only a few of his hobbies. The word "can’t" isn't in McComic’s vocabulary.
He’s been competing in wheelchair racing and track and field events for a year.
McComic walks with the assistance of leg braces because he was born with spina bifida, a congenital defect of the spine.
"He’s not able to walk for a long distance without causing discomfort or sometimes pain," said Tyler's dad, Brandon McComic.
"Tyler sits down in the wheelchair for that. And because he’s sitting for that one event, he has to sit for all the other events which is the javelin, the discus and the shotput."
With just one year of experience, Tyler McComic’s success on the track has been pure gold.
He competes in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter as well as the shot put, discus and javelin.
In May, he racked up seven gold medals at the Texas Regional Paralympic sports meet in San Antonio.
In June, Tyler McComic won seven more gold medals at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla.
Also, he holds two national records.
His coach, Dianna Gates, has been working with him since the day he started competing.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him," she said.
"I mean, he wants it and he works hard. He works hard outside of our practices here at the track.”
Competing to me means, just, it’s freedom to me," explains McComic. "It gives me a chance to clear my mind, get out of the real world.”
We all need an escape, an outlet. For McComic, the need for speed takes his mind off of everyday challenges.
“My disability in general, like it just, constant worrying about being judged and all that kind of stuff."
McComic admits being bullied in elementary school and somewhat in middle school.
“I’ve learned to cope with it pretty well over the years. In high school, people don't really say anything," he continued.
It was in elementary school according to his dad, Brandon McComic.
"The kids would look at his leg braces and they’d say, 'Look at that boy's legs' or 'What’s on his legs?' And Tyler, you know he’s little, and he'd say, 'Why are they looking at me?'"
"Well, instead of that approach, tell them what’s on your legs. Explain to them, 'Hey I gotta have them to walk,'" Brandon McComic continued. "Now it’s grown to we’re in high school and he has a huge circle of friends. I don’t think anybody here at his school sees his leg braces at all; they just see Tyler."
Tyler McComic said his success in track and field has helped him overcome and grow as a person. “It’s helped me overcome, because I compete with other athletes that have, that I’m not alone with, they have disabilities just as bad as mine.”
His coach observed, "Even though he’s got a disability, he’s truly an athlete and I think that’s really empowering for him."
Tyler McComic has qualified for the U.S. adaptive sports junior nationals in Wisconsin. It’s his biggest competition to date.
“Looking forward to competing with the top dogs, as you would call it,” Tyler McComic said, smiling.
He’s never been to Wisconsin.
“Get to see some sights that I’ve never seen before and go eat some cheese.”
Regardless of how Tyler McComic does at the junior nationals, Gates said, it’s much bigger than medal counts.
“This is a training for life, not just for track and field. When I’m working with these guys, I’m looking ahead at where they’re going to be."
"Sports is great for kids no matter who you are," the coach continued. "It develops discipline. My hope is that it carries over to academics and they’re people who go to college and get a great job."
It’s already paying off.
“When I go to back to school nights or I’ll hear a nurse at the doctor’s office, they pull me aside, away from Tyler, and they say he is such a good-mannered kid," Brandon McComic said. "Or he is so nice."
"And I’ll tell you what, that’s when the proud parent moment comes out.”
Tyler McComic’s well-roundedness even extends to music.
“I like singing, I want to try and get into some singing also besides the track.”
His favorite song? "Ain’t No Sunshine," by Bill Withers.
For Tyler McComic, there’s plenty of sunshine still to come.
A bright future for a young man with paralympic aspirations.
Tyler McComic will return from the U.S. junior nationals July 24.
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