The Shawnee Braves boys cross-country team is a good bet Saturday to qualify for the Division II state meet. And why not? One of the Braves top runners, senior Bailey Hoelscher, is pretty good at beating the odds.
When Hoelscher was born — he’s a triplet along with brothers Cameron and Lucas — he developed an infection in the lining of his colon. A doctor checking on another patient took a look at Hoelscher’s chart. An hour later he was transported from Miami Valley Hospital to Children’s Hospital for surgery. Hoelscher was given a 20 percent chance to live.
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He beat the infection but lost his hearing when he was 9 days old, the result of a drug he was administered.
Today, Hoelscher — who was fitted with a cochlear implant when he was 4 — is a key member of the Shawnee cross-country team.
“To see him accomplish what he has with all he’s dealt with,” said his dad, Bill, “everything he’s had to learn. He’s an intelligent kid but he’s had to work at it.”
Hoelscher has to remove his cochlear implant any time he sweats or is in the rain. That means he runs totally deaf. That doesn’t put Hoelscher at a major disadvantage in a sport like cross-country, other than he can’t hear mile times called out or feed off the crowd’s cheering.
At the district meet at Cedarville University last Saturday, Hoelscher finished the 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes, 47.8 seconds. He finished fourth on the team and 30th overall and one second off his personal best on a tough course.
“Bailey really came through for us at district and ran the race of his life,” Shawnee coach Brian DeSantis said. “He seems to be ramping up for an even better performance at regional.”
The Braves need another effort like that one to qualify for the state meet. The top four teams advance at the Division II regional cross-country meet held on the levee in Troy on Saturday.
“I will stay strong and fight through the pain in the race to beat my personal record to help my team finish strong and make state,” said Hoelscher, who often communicates by reading lips. “It would be amazing to finish my high school career with competing at the state meet because I will remember the teams and making into the state rest of my life.”
The Braves have qualified for state the past seven seasons. Juniors Will Geist and Keith Kaiser have led Shawnee. Bailey, junior Ethan Griffith and freshman Zac Spitzer have run in a pack behind them, with sophomore Josh Fogt and freshman Noah Schafer completing the top seven.
“I think we have the talent to get one of the top four spots,” DeSantis said. “We’re not super deep so we can’t afford to make mistakes. We can’t go out 10 seconds faster on a mile and make that kind of mistake. But the boys team has run strong and I like that we have a shot. That’s all you can hope for at this time of year.”
DeSantis said this team is as close as any he’s coached. Hoelscher is a main reason. Though he may have difficulty hearing sometimes — Hoelscher has a professional interpreter with him at school to help break down the lessons in class and take notes — he hasn’t let it control his life.
He’ll also have an interpreter with him at Wright State University, where he plans to study mechanical engineering.
“He’s as well-liked of a kid as you’ll ever meet,” DeSantis said. “He’s just a super kid that everybody loves. He’s super positive. You’d never know he’s at a disadvantage. He doesn’t feel like he is and he never complains. His positivity is infectious.”
“Being social comes natural to me,” said Hoelscher, whose favorite sounds are music and especially drums. “I feel I am popular because I see the best in everyone. I enjoy talking to everyone.”
During races DeSantis will give hand signals to let Hoelscher know his progress. He’ll clap to tell him he’s in a good position, point to tell him to move up or move his hand over and back to tell Hoelscher to turn his legs over faster.
Hoelscher played football in middle school and plans to try out for the swim team this winter.
“He’s never been fearful of anything,” Bill Hoelscher said. “He will do anything. He’s never been afraid of the challenge.”
Hoelscher hopes others in his situation attack life the same way he does that cross-country course.
“My advice for younger kids dealing with challenges like I have experienced and I’ve overcome, is to stay strong and fight for what you want,” Hoelscher said. “Even though you feel like you’re failing, you will always have time to improve and overcome your struggles and challenges.”