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When a 6-year-old Woodlands, Texas boy with cerebral palsy told his mother he wanted to try running, she did her best to get him into the sport. Apparently, the decision has paid off.
Runner’s World reports that Reed Kotalik understands that his leg don’t work properly, but that didn’t stop him from getting into a sport that would force him to use his legs more than he ever has before. When Dawn Kotalik learned her son was interested in running in 2014, she signed him up for a one-mile race on Thanksgiving. She recalled to Runner’s World that she had no clue if he succeeded or not until he received a trophy.
Kindergartner Reed Kotalik, 6, of The Woodlands, Texas, doesn’t know what cerebral palsy is. He just knows that… https://t.co/c5HInBnhTf
— Maze Cord Blood (@Maze_Cord_Blood) March 24, 2016
I had no idea how he did, I just knew that there were thousands of people out there, and so we left. A couple of days afterward, they called and said they had this two-foot-tall trophy for him. At that point, he said he wanted to do more races.”
Afterwards, Reed went on to participate in the AAU 14-Under Youth National Indoor Track & Field Championships, where he won several trophies, a feat not easily done by someone with the type of medical problems Reed has been through.
Reed was born with laryngomalacia, a condition marked by no cartilage in the throat. He went through speech therapy and eating therapy for several years, while dealing with a sleeping issue that made him wake up numerous times during the night, and a foot issue that made his left foot turn inward. After numerous tests, doctors still couldn’t determine why he kept waking. When he turned five, however, an MRI revealed that Reed had cerebral palsy.
A surgeon recommended that Reed undergo surgery to correct his left foot, but his mother decided against it after mulling it over. Reed was already competing in running competitions and she didn’t want to interrupt his progress. She recalled,
I couldn’t imagine making him take [time] off [from running] to have a foot surgery. I thought maybe doing more to help his muscle control and movement would be a better solution.”
Reed now trains with former University of Arkansas runner Chris Bilbrew. The Olympic 800-meter hopeful trains Reed at least two to three times a week, with training sessions that consist of over an hour of running in the early morning, before the 6-year-old heads to his kindergarten class. Blibew stated that like unlike many kids his age, Reed actually wants the training, which makes its easier to teach him.
“Reed isn’t like other 6-year-olds because he actually wants to do it, so it makes it easier to train him. He is very energetic and determined. He doesn’t like to lose and wants to work to make sure he wins.”
Reed’s training isn’t limited to just morning running. Once he’s done with school for the day, the young boy goes to CHI St. Luke’s Health, where he’s enrolled in physical therapy to help strengthen his muscles. On Fridays, he gets sports massages and when the weekends roll around, he practices field events, such as the long jump, shot put, and turbo javelin.
— David Argueta (@dargueta80) February 22, 2016
Regardless, Dawn Kotalik realizes that her son’s cerebral palsy may affect his abilities as he grows older. She got him into field events so that he’d always have a part in track and field, even if there comes a time when he can’t run long distances anymore.
“I didn’t know how much longevity he would have with running, so I thought that if I could go ahead and get him into field events now, that if something happened where his running five years from now isn’t what it can be right now, at least he can still do something in the sport he loves.”
For now, Reed continues with his passion for running. The 6-year-old kindergarten student is preparing to qualify for Houston’s Junior Olympics, that takes place this summer. When he’s older, Dawn Kotalik plans to tell her son that he has cerebral palsy and explain to him what it is.
“It seems like he knows something’s up and he likes feeling as though he’s doing something about it. He seems to have that determination to kind of sort through it and work it out.”