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Adam: Big heart & even bigger inspiration

Veritas 4th grader elicits cheers, tears at MUST track meet

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Adam: Big heart & even bigger inspiration

Adam Alcaraz, 9, won’t let anything stop him from succeeding.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED April 25, 2013 2:08 a.m.

Anthony Alcaraz sat forward in his seat, staring quizzically at the track, convinced someone had made a mistake.

There was no way his son was ready to run another race so soon, much less the anchor leg of the sprint medley.

That pass of the baton would require Adam to turn two laps – 800 meters – around the track at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

Adam, a 9-year-old fourth grader at Veritas Elementary School, is many things. He is brave and ambitious, devoutly religious and compassionate.

But a finely tuned track star he is not.

So, with a skeptical glare, Anthony watched with great interest. There had to be a mistake ... right?

“It was intense,” Anthony said, recalling those anxious moments during Monday’s Manteca Unified Student Trust track meet. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, they won’t put Adam at anchor. He’s just not fast enough.’ I thought maybe they would go backwards or something. When they started the race, and I realized they weren’t going backwards, I was irate.”

For good reason, too.

Adam is a special-needs student, whose condition remains a bit of a mystery. To this day, Adam hasn’t been definitively diagnosed. His parents, Anthony and Angelica Alcaraz, have only this to go with: Their son, as best as any doctor, psychologist and specialist can tell, is “globally delayed.”

He has a speech impediment  and can’t talk without an interpreter, usually mom or dad. He has asthma, is overweight for his age (145 pounds), and has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old. He can’t play contact sports because a blow to the head could be fatal, Anthony says.

Yet, he loves sports.

The bustling Alcaraz household – Adam is one of five children – is framed by athletics. Dad is a coach with the East Union sophomore baseball team and a director with the football program. He also coaches the rookie team for the Manteca Cowboys.

Guess who else is a coach with the Cowboys? Adam.

He was made an honorary coach by Paul Rodriguez and even received a Super Bowl trophy when the rookies won it all last fall.

“Adam has the biggest heart for sports,” Anthony said. “... His whole life is surrounded by football, baseball and basketball and any other sport you could think of. He’s very energetic, hyper and enthusiastic. He understands the games and loves them will all his heart. The only problem – he can never play contact sports with his disability.”

Adam was in no shape to run Monday’s anchor leg, either. Not by himself, anyway.

With Dad ready to leap from the stands, Adam labored down the homestretch in last place, striding through the finish area. As he began to break down and celebrate his finish, a volunteer broke the bad news.

Uh, one more lap, kid.

“I could see it in his eyes,” Anthony said. “Adam looked at him like, ‘What?’ I knew he wanted to give up, but he kept going.”

Remember that part about Adam being devoutly religious?

Here’s where his faith came into play. His family attends the Christian Worship Center. Within those walls and beneath that cross, Adam has no physical or mental limitations. He is just as God created him – perfect.

“Adam has the biggest heart for anything and everyone. When someone is in need, Adam is the first to help – even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Anthony said. “At church, if he sees someone praying, he’ll pray with them. He tries to accomplish so much with the best of his imagination.

“His special needs have inspired our whole family. He’s developed a patience in us that we thought we’d never have. He’s the kid who will give you a high-five just so you know he’s there for you.”

He would need the help of others on Monday, and would find it in rich abundance.

The track was lined with angels that afternoon, there to shepherd him through those final 400 meters.

There was Haley Silva, a 16-year-old sophomore at Sierra High. She jogged with Adam along the backstretch, bringing him around the final bend.

Silva runs track for the Timberwolves and decided to stick around after practice to volunteer.

“He looked so exhausted and it got to the point where he was walking,” Silva said. “I wanted to help him. I tried to encourage him the whole way; tried to keep him positive.”

As Adam crossed in front of the home bleachers, with the finish line in sight, Anthony could see the devastation and despair in his son’s eyes. Adam began to cry and cough – scary signs for an asthmatic – and was ready to quit.

Anthony bolted for the track. There had to be a mistake. His son wasn’t ready for a race like this.

“I’m not only scared,” Anthony said, “but I’m pissed. I went down there and told Adam, ‘Son, you don’t have to run the rest of this race, but you do have to finish.’

“He just looked up, as if he didn’t know what to say. Then he finally said, ‘God ... Help me, God.’ ”

With that, Adam began to walk. Moments later, he began to sprint, igniting a crowd that cheered his every step. Tears collected on the cheeks of complete strangers. Opposing coaches stopped their conversations and instruction to see this boy ... this boy on the verge of a DNF ... finish with a gold-medal sprint.

“He was taking huge breaths and was just exhausted. After a bit, he started to walk off the track and give up, and the crowd clapped for his effort,” Stella Brockman coach Beth Thomas said. “I turned away, but the next thing I heard, people were cheering.”

Adam peeled away from his father, punching the sky as he crossed the finish line.

“I’m trying to stay with him, like Haley did, but he was running too fast,” Dad said. “It was like ‘Wow, he’s doing it.’ When he got to the finish line, he raised his hands and looked up. I knew what he was doing. ‘Thank you, God.’ It was so touching. I looked up in the stands and everyone suddenly had allergies. Everyone’s eyes were watering.”

With one gutsy run, the boy with no distinct athletic ability and a disability doctors have yet to diagnosed, had inspired a throng of strangers, young and old.

He overcame all odds that afternoon with tools so often overlooked in the athletic arena: bravery, ambition, religion and passion.

Afterward, Anthony found Veritas head coach Richard Gurule, who offered the family his deepest apology. Somehow, he said, the order got scrambled. Adam was supposed to run 200 meters.

In hindsight, it might have been a mistake to enter Adam in that race, but let the record show he finished. To a standing ovation, he finished.

“I know it was a mistake, but it inspired so many,” Anthony said. “So it couldn’t have been a mistake.

“If we could all be inspired by a special-needs kids that wouldn’t quit, imagine how much we could accomplish.”

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