GUNTER — Senior Tyler Buysse experienced the thrill of being a three-time gold medal winner last spring. His greatest enjoyment came from winning the 400-meter dash, an event he had prepared hardest for.
“It’s the longest race I do, so I have to put all my work into that,” Buysse said. “I’ve got to have a lot of stamina and a lot of speed just to get around the curve. And I met my goal. I got it under a minute last year. I got 57 (seconds), which was great.”
Of course, Buysse isn’t a typical track athlete. But being confined to a wheelchair since the age of six has not slowed him down one bit.
Buysse will try to repeat his gold trifecta at the University Interscholastic League state track and field meet Friday evening at Mike A. Myers Complex in Austin.
By all indications, Buysse is poised to do just that. Against wheelchair athletes from all classifications, he has the best qualifying time in the 100-meter dash by a second and a half, and his time in the 400 is almost two full seconds faster than the second-place competitor.
“This year I’ve improved two seconds in each event,” Buysse said. “Right now I’m just a little bit over my goal of what I want to be this year. Hopefully at state I can reach that goal.”
In the shot put, Buysse ranks sixth among the nine qualifiers. But last year, he came in seventh and wound up winning the gold medal in that event, too.
In December 2005, six-year-old Tyler Buysse was riding in a car with his mother and brother when they were involved in a horrific head-on collision on State Highway 289 that left him paralyzed and facing multiple surgeries, followed by months of therapy. His mother, Jennifer, also suffered a broken neck in the crash.
But in spite of being unable to walk, young Tyler made a rapid recovery and by the age of 9, he discovered wheelchair basketball and began playing for the Dallas Junior Mavericks prep team. Today, he is one of the team’s top varsity players and helped lead it to the national championships two summers ago.
Buysse also marched in the Gunter band, playing trumpet.
Last year, Buysse was new to racing and spent day after day playing catch-up in his training, coming out daily to the track at Gunter High School’s Tiger Stadium to do work.
“It definitely helps to have a little bit longer to prepare for it, and know what I’m getting into,” he said. “Last year was kind of hard. I started three track meets into the year, so I didn’t have a full track season to really prepare. This year I had the full track season, so I guess I’ll find out what that’ll do for me.”
Another good showing by Buysse in Austin could gain him some attention nationally.
“I’ve already talked to some of the Paralympic coaches, just talking,” Buysse said. “They’ve invited me to some track meets to go to for Paralympics. It’s definitely something I could do later on in life.”
But right now, his main emphasis is on the hardwood. In the fall, Buysse will be heading to the University of Missouri, with which he signed a letter of intent to play wheelchair basketball last fall.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m blessed to have that scholarship and pursue what I like. I love basketball. To do that and get my school paid for in the process is great.”
The whole community of Gunter rallied behind the Buysse family almost 12 years ago after the accident, and now, Tyler is giving Tiger supporters another, much happier reason to cheer. Last fall’s state football championship has amped up the excitement around all of Gunter athletics.
“They’re doing the same things they did last year, and even more,” he said. “It’s been crazy all year. Everybody believes that any sports program or anything can really do well here.”