The 14th annual University of Central Oklahoma Endeavor Games wrapped up Sunday. Here's a look at some of the athletes who competed and their stories.
Jeff Waldmuller: Just Here To Help
It's been 4½ years since Jeff Waldmuller was run over by a semi-truck. The Oklahoma City native didn't know when Pearl Harbor Day was until after his accident on Dec. 7, 2008.
But the longtime cyclist wasn't going to let a near-death experience stop him from doing what he loved to do, ride bikes. Mostly mountain biking he said, after finishing the Cycling 5K at Lake Arcadia.
“I really wanted to get back into mountain biking and then I got a road bike to train for mountain biking,” Waldmuller said.
Now in his fourth year at the Endeavor Games, Waldmuller competes in track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball and Para canoeing. Waldmuller said he loves how much the games have grown each year; how much support the athletes get is something he really enjoys about coming back again every year.
Waldmuller moved to Oklahoma City because of the opportunity to compete in not only the Endeavor Games but also other events like these. The culture Oklahoma City has taken toward athletes with disabilities is a huge factor for Waldmuller.
“Oklahoma City is the perfect place for me,” he said.
Whether or not he stays here remains to be seen. After three years of trying, Waldmuller was accepted to Northwestern University to pursue his career in prosthetics. He only has one week left of online course work before he begins clinicals with Sabolich here in Oklahoma City. Then in July, Waldmuller will head to Chicago to finish his on-site clincals at the university and then he will be finished and ready to begin work.
He said he is excited to help out for this cause. That's what he's been doing here for the last four years and that's what he will be doing here for years to come.
Karina Keck: A Little Competition
Karina Keck from Tulsa came to have fun. But the 17-year-old doesn't hesitate to let you know about why she's really here. The competition.
Keck plays wheelchair basketball for the Tulsa Jammers. At this year's Endeavor Games, she is playing in the youth category, but this high school sophomore plays with adults, too. She says the kids are just having fun. The adults, they take it seriously.
To keep up with the intensity the adults bring to the game, Keck practices more than three hours per day. Add the two hours she spends shooting around at her house and you can see why this girl has her sights set on playing basketball in college.
Besides Texas-Arlington and Arizona, Illinois also has their sights set on bringing Keck on board to play for them in the future. She's been playing wheelchair basketball for nine years. Almost as long as the Lithuanian-born-turned-Tulsan has been in America. Keck was adopted at age 7 and celebrated her 10-year anniversary just last month.
Keck suffers from Spina bifida, a condition that doesn't confine her to a wheelchair, but does give her the opportunity to play and interact with lots of kids facing similar situations.
“I interact more with the kids,” Keck said. “I'm mostly just here to have fun.”
Basketball might be the fun part of the Endeavor Games for Keck, but it's not the only reason she came to Edmond.
“I set a national record last year in the shot-put. It was five meters, and I threw 5.3. I'm going to try to beat it.”
Along with the shot-put, discus and javelin, Keck also runs the 100 meters.
“I like a little competition,” Keck said with a smile as she was called back to play another game.
Larry Salyer: Times Have Changes
A victory in the Adult 3-on-3 Wheelchair Basketball Tournament at the Endeavor Games gave Larry Salyer plenty reason to celebrate on Friday afternoon. The 63-year old from Owasso was just happy to be playing.
Salyer suffers from Sacral agenesis, similar to Spina bifida, and it keeps him on crutches. Salyer prefers the wheelchair because he can move around a lot better.
This is the 40th year Salyer has played wheelchair basketball competitively. He smiled when asked about the differences in the game from when he began playing after getting out of college at Northeastern State in Tahlequah. Salyer said the chairs were just regular hospital chairs then. Now, they cost thousands of dollars. Each wheel could run you $800.
“It can set you back,” Salyer said after a game in which he had to change a wheel because the competition got too intense. “That's a big difference now-a-days. They're starting kids playing so young, the game is much more intense. It can be hard to keep up with these kids.”
He said it was awesome for the sport to start kids at a young age, and he loved how many different sports that were offered.
Despite having to have two rotator cuffs and a bicep reattached because of wheelchair basketball, Salyer doesn't stop playing. He said there are only two reasons anyone is at the Endeavor Games, to have fun or to compete.
After competing in intramural basketball and other sports in college, Salyer ran into an old friend who mentioned wheelchair basketball. He said he hadn't heard of it and didn't know how you could even play basketball that way. Now, 40 years later, the competitive side of Salyer is still going strong.
Bryce Boyer: Practice?!
Bryce Boyer didn't practice much for the Endeavor Games this year. He didn't really seem to think he needed to.
It was the 19-year-old's first time in Edmond to compete in the games. Boyer, of Kansas City, Mo., had his legs amputated when he was 10 years old and has only worn his prosthetic legs a few times. He is still adjusting to being on them and walking around, let alone running on them in a competitive race.
“They're more like toys than legs,” Boyer said.
This isn't the first competition for Boyer, however. He has wrestled and played football in the past, and his experience gave him a dose of confidence going into his races on Saturday at Edmond North High School. Boyer ran in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.
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