Don’t call Sarah Maynard handicapped.
If anything, it is the folks against whom she’s competing who have the handicap.
Fact is, she’s not easy to beat, as the Peaster High School senior-to-be proved in the recent Class 3A University Interscholastic League Track and Field Meet in Austin.
Maynard brought home a bronze medal in shotputting in the wheelchair division. She had a throw of 12 feet, 9 inches.
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She also plays basketball - very well - excels in the classroom and student government, and has plans for even more in the very near future.
People tell me that I am inspiring but I feel like a normal person who does every day things but if I can inspire people and make a difference then that’s great.
"People tell me that I am inspiring but I feel like a normal person who does everyday things, but if I can inspire people and make a difference, then that’s great," said Maynard.
"Since she was an athlete before the accident, this has helped others to see that just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you have to stop being an athlete," said her coach, Denise Yankie.
"At the regional track meet in Whitehouse, she and another young man from Keene participated in the shot put and had quite a crowd watching, with several college kids talking and analyzing the chair and her throwing technique.
"It also made others from other schools aware that this was out there for them. We had several who said that they didn’t know this was out there for these athletes to try."
The reason Maynard is in a wheelchair goes back four years. She was in a car accident that broke her back, severed her spinal cord, broke some ribs and stretched ligaments in her neck.
Yes, it changed her life – but it hasn’t taken away the things she loves, including sports. She does, however, have to approach things differently now.
"I think what’s hardest is figuring out the best way to do events while you’re sitting," she said with a chuckle. "There’s a lot of lifting weights and getting your upper body stronger."
Then she added with another laugh, "Obviously we skip leg day."
Thanks to the UIL adding a wheelchair division to state track, Maynard could still fulfill a dream every high school track athlete has.
She competed and won a medal at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas.
"I think it’s awesome that there is a wheelchair division and that I can participate with my classmates and share those moments with them," she said.
"I’d like to thank all my coaches this year, especially Denise Yankie who has pushed me to be not only the best athlete I can be, but the best person I can be."
It was Yankie who convinced Maynard to give wheelchair sports a try. Yankie had previously worked with blind pole vaulter Charlotte Brown at Emory Rains. Brown also won a bronze medal at state this year.
"We finally convinced her to try out for the Mavs basketball team in Arlington. With her playing basketball, this opened her world up for so many other things that she saw others trying and doing," said Yankie.
So far Maynard’s only competed in shot put, but she plans to add running events next season, including the 100-meter dash.
But her favorite sport is basketball. She plays with the Junior Wheelchair Mavericks.
"This was my first season to do that as well. I’ve enjoyed it so much, and love all the people I’ve met through it," she said.
"I’ve always loved basketball and it was hard to get used to, but I’ve managed to get the hang of it - I think. Next year I will play with varsity and we travel all over the U.S., and will compete at nationals in Kentucky.
"I was pretty much born with a basketball in my hands, I went to ball camps every year, and even went to the boys camps as a kid. I also love volleyball and used to play before I was injured."
She plans on expanding her sports repertoire in the wheelchair variety, she said.
" I haven’t started playing any other sports, but chances are I will because every time I play a new sport my coach asks me to do another one," Maynard said, tearfully.
Coming from a family with a strong sports background has helped her make the adjustment, she said.
"My family is very supportive and always wanted me to do sports since I was injured," she said.
"My dad played basketball and averaged 27 points a game, and my mom was a cheerleader. My brothers both played basketball as well, they’re my best friends and biggest fans."
A solid A student and a member of the Peaster High School Student Council, Maynard appears to have a good college education in her future. She hasn’t settled on a school yet, but she has a good idea of what she’d like to do for a career."
"I haven’t made my mind up about colleges yet but I think I want to get a business degree and start my own business," she said.
But first, there’s unfinished business in high school.
"My goals for next season are to participate in the racing and go for the gold in shot put," she said.
"I will continue to work out and get stronger this summer."