Brent Langemaat said he couldn’t recall a time when he’s seen a smile brighter on his son’s face than the one he witnessed May 26 at the Seahorse Triathlon in Vicksburg.
Langemaat’s son, Bradley, is one of an estimated 500,000 Americans suffering from cerebral palsy, a permanent disorder that affects posture and movement resulting from brain damage, often at birth.
Bradley doesn’t have a severe case of the disorder, but his hands and neck noticeably rest at a crooked angle, and he relies on a motorized wheelchair for movement. His speech is muddled, but he’s fully capable of communicating and stressing what's on his mind.
"He's a smart kid," Brent said.
In fact, nearly two weeks after he participated in his first triathlon, Bradley used the following words to describe himself inside Grand Haven High School: “capable,” “confident” and “prepared.”
Really, those words could describe any triathlete, the ranks of which Bradley has joined thanks to the efforts of three GHHS teachers and several other supporters.
The Zeeland resident, who just wrapped up his sophomore year in the Severe Multiple Impairment class taught by Melissa Richardson at GHHS, finished the grueling test of endurance in a special way. In what could be considered a rare four-person relay in the triathlon, Langemaat was first towed through the water in the opening 500-meter swim portion in a raft pulled by outdoor education teacher Derek Warner.
"Bradley, when we were racing, I kind of felt like I was letting you borrow my arms and legs for the day," Warner said to the boy as the pair sat around a table at GHHS earlier this week.
From there, Warner helped Langemaat transition to the bike portion of the event, where he rode behind GHHS English teacher Tom Foley, then pulled Langemaat behind his bike in a wheeled trailer for 12.4 miles. Richardson was waiting at the next transition area, where she began to push Langemaat in a large running stroller for 3.1 miles to the finish line.
Richardson and Warner — both avid triathletes — said it was the most memorable event they've ever completed.
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