OAK GROVE, La. (KTVE) – Noah Sharplin’s energy is infectious. It’s revered by many, outside of Oak Grove city limits.
“I’m like Jesse Owens, ” says Sharplin. “…One of the fastest track men in the Olympics.”
Diagnosed with autism at two years old, Sharplin was told he’d never be able to talk. Recently, the freshman took part in Sterlington’s track and field meet. He’s been the Tigers’ cheerleader for a while. Now, others are reciprocating the support.
“Now with this, you have to slap and calm yourself, ” Sharplin continued.
Sharplin is joined by Panthers star Katie Byrd. She’s the two-time defending district MVP, reigning 3200-meter district regional champion. She already has multiple scholarship offers. Byrd too has autism.
“Have to find someone borderline insane to want to run miles and miles on their free time. Other sports are like ‘Coach made us run five laps.’ That’s an easy day.
She recently took gold in the 800, 1600, 3200 and 4 x 800 relay in Sterlington.
“No matter what’s going on in life, whether you have a bad mood, everything just stops, ” says Byrd. “Everything just stops and you’re content as you be. Just placing one foot in front of the other. It’s just magical in a way.”
Byrd and Sharplin share a connection that goes beyond the sport of running.
“[Katie’s] mother was his [occupational therapist].” says Cindy Sharplin.
“Noah and Katie would do different types of therapy together, ” says Cindy Byrd, mother of Katie. “They bonded at a very young age.”
“We met them first at Northeast, now ULM, through a program they have for the OT department, ” says Cindy Sharplin. “Their friendship grew.”
These two are just like other student-athletes. They’re defying the odds. And, they’re not being prevented from pursuing their dreams.
“The track team and I, we’re going to have a good season of track, ” says Noah Sharplin
“Running is a sport that doesn’t care what you have, ” says Katie Byrd. “It’ll treat you as equal. And, no one can tell you that you didn’t deserve it. You just went through the exact same thing six other or two to three other hundred kids just went through.”