Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Youth Sports

Disabled athlete inspires teammates at Wiregrass High

Josh Melendez, 16, a junior at Wiregrass Ranch High school, runs track and field and is hoping to try out for the Wiregrass cross country team in the spring.  He has coped with a mild case of cerebral palsy since birth.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Josh Melendez, 16, a junior at Wiregrass Ranch High school, runs track and field and is hoping to try out for the Wiregrass cross country team in the spring. He has coped with a mild case of cerebral palsy since birth.

WESLEY CHAPEL

His right hand moves uncontrollably as he talks.

The corresponding foot bounces as he walks.

Joshua Melendez knows he's different.

At birth, the 16-year-old junior and athlete at Wiregrass High School suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his body. He is classified as having cerebral palsy, but a mild case.

"There a lot of kids with his condition that are in much worse shape," Josh's mother, Leanne Melendez, said. "For him, it's frustrating, but he's done well adapting to this type of life. Knowing his condition at birth, we worried about what he would be able to do. But we've watched him overcome this thing over and over."

Having had the condition since birth, Melendez has been able to cope with his handicap and learn how to do things. He has mastered a one-handed shoe tie, learned to cook, shot put and throw the javelin, and even play golf.

"It doesn't really bother me to have a disability," Melendez said. "Maybe I can't run as fast as other people, but I can still do it. Winning is nice, but it isn't everything."

Melendez has been competing with a program called BlazeSports since he was 10 years old. The organization is dedicated to working with handicapped kids to help them compete in sports they enjoy, setting up events and leagues that allow the kids to compete against other kids with disabilities.

For Melendez, the confidence earned in BlazeSports fuels him for a push to compete at the high school level. He currently competes on the Wiregrass junior varsity team.

"BlazeSports has done a lot for me," Melendez said. "I've been able to go to national competitions four times. Now, I have (track) coach (Chris) Loth here (at Wiregrass). He started me off slow and worked me up to running longer distances. I'm really thankful that I've got people around me who support me."

Having won various events at national competitions with Blaze­Sports, Melendez has shown he is a good athlete and has targeted the next Paralympics in 2012 as his next mission.

"I'll just keep doing my best," Melendez said. "I just have to keep working at it and trying to get better. Sometimes it's hard to try to do everything, but I just have to keep doing it and maybe I'll get there."

At Wiregrass, Melendez has found his place on the track team as his teammates have rallied around him to help him train.

"We started the season with the goal being that Josh could finish a race," Loth said. "By the end of the year, he was finishing them within the time frame that we'd hoped."

What Melendez's presence has meant to the team is just as tangible as what the team means to Melendez.

"He's put it into perspective for all of us," Loth said. "He's a great kid and the kids have come together to support him. Usually, at the end of a race the junior varsity kids run after the varsity kids and some of my top runners have started to find him toward the end of his races and run with him for the last 800 meters."

Submit feedback, story ideas to community sports@tampabay.com.

Fast Facts

Joshua Melendez

Age: 16

Grade: Junior

School: Wiregrass High School

Favorite Sport: Football

Etc: Melendez has set his sights on more than just athletics as he hopes to attend college and settle down after that. "He's told me numerous times that he wants to go to school, graduate, get a job, buy a house, get married and start a family," Leanne Melendez said. He has also been recognized by the U.S. Paralympic Program as an Emerging Elite Athlete.

Fast facts

Joshua Melendez

Age: 16

Grade: Junior

School: Wiregrass Ranch High School

Favorite sport: Football

Etc.: Melendez has set his sights on more than just athletics as he hopes to attend college and settle down after that. "He's told me numerous times that he wants to go to school, graduate, get a job, buy a house, get married and start a family," Leanne Melendez said. He has also been recognized by the U.S. Paralympic Program as an Emerging Elite Athlete.

Disabled athlete inspires teammates at Wiregrass High 12/04/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Offense shows signs of waking up in win over Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The drought was so severe that it's still probably too soon to say that the Rays are out of it, but they did score six runs Tuesday in a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays.

    Corey Dickerson high-fives Wilson Ramos after hitting a solo home run in the third inning, putting the Rays up 2-1.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    C Wilson Ramos, coming off major right knee surgery, understandably often takes it easy running the bases, though it's not always a good look. But he hustled when he needed to Tuesday and got the Rays a run by beating out a two-out infield single.

  3. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  4. Rays vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Blue Jays

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman laughs after Houston Astros' Carlos Beltran reached first on an infield single during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
  5. For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 5:52: Cash said the off-day should have done the Rays good after losing 12 of their last 16 games and 20 of their last 30, with just one day off in that stretch:

    Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.