Heroes come in all shapes and sizes
Leada Gore, Editor
In the midst of Olympic stories about prima donna skiers and squabbling speed skaters came a truly inspiring sports story last week.
Jason McElwain is a 17-year-old senior at Greece Athena High School in Greece, NY. McElwain is autistic. Like many other autistic people, McElwain struggles with verbal skills and social interaction, so it is remarkable enough that the towheaded teen serves as the manager for the school's basketball team.
He's been team manager since junior high when coaches told him that at 5-foot-six-inches, he wasn't tall enough to play for the school team. Not discouraged, McElwain opted to be the team manager, keeping statistics for the game, handling the clock and serving as a general team gopher.
Wearing his own uniform – a white shirt and black tie – he watched the games from the bench for the last six years.
Until last week, that is.
Prompted by fans, coaches at the school said they would let McElwain play in an actual game. On the day of the last regular-season game of the year, fans with James McElwain signs filled then gymnasium. There were only four minutes left in the game when coaches looked down the bench and signaled McElwain -now dressed in a regulation uniform – into the game. His team was up 20 points and coaches figured they were safe to let the boy live his dream of taking the court during a real high school basketball game.
In a later interview, the coach said McElwain was so excited he almost failed to check in at the timekeeper's table before he sprinted onto the court.
No one expected McElwain to do very much. When he tossed his first shot into the air, he missed, with the ball sailing in a wide arc over the goal. His second shot – a lay up – was off course, too.
He didn't give up, though. He tried another shot, one from three-point range. This one swished through the basket and the gymnasium erupted with cheers.
McElwain wasn't done. He went on to hit six three-point shots, finishing the game with 20 points, all scored within four minutes.
At the end of the game, the teenager who didn't learn to talk until he was five was carried off the court on the shoulders of his teammates.
The Greece Athena High School Trojans won the sectional title, thanks in part to the work of one young man who wouldn't quit.
It's said the first Olympics took place in Greece, founded on the principals of athleticism, accomplishment and valor. Now, thousands of years later, those same traits are found in one high school boy who proves heroes come in all shapes and sizes.