By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Soon-to-be sophomore Elliott Murphy has been a sports fanatic ever since he can remember.
"I've been watching sports ever since I was a baby," he said. "My whole family is into sports. My dad's side, my mom's side."
While he was still a baby, Murphy was diagnosed with spina bifida, and started using a wheelchair around the age of one. That didn't slow him down one bit.
Murphy took up baseball, snow skiing, basketball, and eventually varsity track and field this past spring at Bishop LeBlond.
The first varsity para track athlete in St. Joseph city history, Murphy competed in the 100 and 200 meter dash, along with shot put.
He was the only entry in para events during meets throughout the season, as LeBlond competes at the Class 1 level in track.
But, that didn't slow Murphy down. He competed hard all the way through districts, and came home from the Class 1 state meet in Jefferson City with three gold medals and a personal-best time of 19.27 seconds in the 100.
"It's great to be recognized," Murphy said. "Being a para athlete and actually just being the only para athlete at the whole entire (Class 1 state track meet). It was really nice to be recognized."
Track and field for para athletes has been sanctioned by MSHSAA since 2009. At least one para athlete competed at state track in Classes 3-5 in May.
But only three total para events at state track in Missouri had more than one competitor - Class 5 boys' 100, Class 5 girls' 200 and the Class 3 boys' 200.
Kansas, meanwhile, just sanctioned para track and field this past spring and made history when the first wheelchair 100-meter dash was held at the state meet in Wichita.
Murphy is hopeful that more para athletes in Missouri will find their way to state competition in the future.
"I think this will open eyes to many people," he said. "I think (para athletics) is going to keep growing and I hope it keeps growing."
While Murphy looks forward to another three years of varsity track, he's also part of a growing wheelchair basketball team called the Kansas City Kings - a team for local and regional varsity players.
Part of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, and part of the Kansas City non-profit Midwest Adaptive Sports, Murphy and the Kings will compete in nationals this coming weekend in Wichita.
Murphy says basketball has been his hobby of choice this summer.
"I go outside for an hour or two hours every day to play basketball," Murphy says. "That's pretty much it."
Murphy is now more sure of himself as he looks ahead to his sophomore year.
Competing as the city's first varsity para track athlete, as a freshman, coming off of COVID cancellations last year, was certainly a memorable experience for Murphy and his coaches.
But, once again, it didn't slow Murphy down.
"The coaches were great," he said. "Nobody really knew what they were doing at first, including myself. But, they were really great through the learning process. They were willing to learn and willing to help me. Overall, they were willing to help me through the difficulties that came throughout the process.
"It's really boosted my confidence and I can't wait to see what my sophomore year has to offer."
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.