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Lack of hearing doesn't stop Perrysburg High runner

Bryant-Byrd

Bryant Byrd, a member of the Perrysburg High School cross country team, runs with the River Runners club in Side Cut Metrotrpark in Maumee.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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When Bryant Byrd runs, he cannot hear his competitors sneaking up behind him. He cannot hear the spectators cheering, nor his coach shouting out his mile times.

The teenager, who has lived with an unexplainable hearing loss since he was a young child, runs without the background noise, without any distractions.

“I try to run my heart out,” said Mr. Byrd, the fastest runner on the Perrysburg High School cross country team. “I’m just totally focused on my running. What I got to do to win.”

Mr. Byrd, 18, has found a niche in running, a sport where it’s a lonely battle between a runner and the clock.

On Monday, Mr. Byrd — who runs a mile in 4 minutes, 24 seconds — and about 40 other young runners practiced at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee.

Instead of yelling out advice, his coach Jeff Taylor uses hand gestures to make him speed up or slow down. But there are times when runners overtake Mr. Byrd from behind in the final 100 meters, and he has no warning before they pass him.

“It can surprise me,” said Mr. Byrd, who can read lips and can hear a bit through cochlear implants.

Later in the school year, he will play point guard on the varsity basketball team.

His coaches communicate with him by using hand signals to call out plays and by speaking into a microphone that sends instructions to a small radio attached to Mr. Byrd.

But first, it’s cross country season.

It’s just after 8 a.m., as the teenagers warm up in their fluorescent running shoes and track shorts while a nearby flock of Canada geese, feasting on the grass, ignore them. The students are in the middle of an eight-week training camp to get ready for the upcoming cross country season.

Here, Mr. Byrd stands out.

At 6-foot-1, 176 pounds, he has a bulkier body instead of the typical long-distance runner’s lanky look.

“He’s a man among boys,” said Mr. Taylor.

The soft-spoken teenager, who along with cross country and basketball also runs track, is a quiet leader on the team.

He’s the kid who runs extra at practice. The kid who wants to ice his body after workouts in a tub of ice water, instead of the five-gallon bucket like everybody else.

“He just loves it,” said his mother, Mary Beth Byrd of Perrysburg. “You never have to say, ‘Are you going to run today, Bryant?’ … He’s so focused.”

Hopefully, the small preparations will make the difference for his senior year.

His goals are to make it to state competition, break the 16-minute, 8-second school record in the 5-kilometer race, and run in college.

“His heart is like steel,” Mr. Taylor said about his star runner. “He works so hard. He wants it so bad.”

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com, 419-351-0361 or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson.

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