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Newburgh Free Academy's Ryler Gould Wins Gold in 400-meter Hurdles
“If I ever learn how to walk again,” Gould once said to his mother, “I’m going to run.” The kid who once asked his mother if he’d ever walk again ran the fastest time a junior in a New York State high school has ever run in the 400-meter hurdles on Friday.
Newburgh’s Gould grabs gold in 400-meter hurdles.
MIDDLETOWN — The kid who once asked his mother if he’d ever walk again ran the fastest time a junior in a New York State high school has ever run in the 400-meter hurdles on Friday. Ryler Gould bent over at the waist, breathing heavily as he explained how he sprinted and leaped toward a 51.81 finish, four-hundredths of a second faster than second place. “It’s just all mental,” Gould said.
Gould’s story reads like fiction. A devastating foot injury at the age of 4 caused by a lawnmower, reconstructive surgery when he was 11; from wheelchair to walker to wheelchair and then, improbably, to running.
Gould, a junior at Newburgh who is now a back-to-back state champion in the 400 hurdles, made the varsity team in seventh grade, competing against athletes years older. He settled on the hurdles in eighth grade because “I like a little bit of action between the running,” Gould said.
But the hurdles signify something greater to the Gould family. The word is both figurative and literal, the athlete who hurdled obstacles in life just to be able to compete proves himself the best at clearing obstacles on the track.
“I struggled a lot,” Gould said, “but I overcame that.”
In the race, too, there was a small sign of struggle. Newburgh head coach Malcolm Burks noticed Gould hit an “invisible wall” at the fourth hurdle before finding his rhythm at the sixth hurdle. The crowd gasped as Gould glided down the final straightway alongside Francis Lewis High School’s Sean Hewitt. Richard, Ryler’s father, who’d been feeling the nerves all Friday, admittedly was more nervous than the kid running the race.
“He has no doubts,” Richard said of his son.
Gould wasn’t done. As he waited to receive the baton to anchor Newburgh’s 4x400 relay, he shot both hands up in the air, then clapped to rally his teammates. He sped around the last curve of the four-lap relay, closing the gap between himself and the anchor from Huntington. The 3:14.56 finish was only 0.39 seconds behind first place.
“He just never gave up,” Michelle said.
That can be said both of Gould’s racing and his overall journey through life. The child who was once unable to stand up on his own now has two shoeboxes under his bed filled with invitations from colleges like the University of Southern California, Florida State and Princeton.
Before the college coaches line up at his door next month, Gould will run in nationals and the Junior Olympics, aiming to follow up his spring victories at the Penn Relays and at the state meet in Middletown.
“If I ever learn how to walk again,” Gould once said to his mother, “I’m going to run.”
Now the question is, who can slow him down?
Story by Justin Fedich
Times Herald Record
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