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Para-athlete, recovering B.C. champion overcome adversity together
High school runners Luke Harris and Ges Bushe have faced different challenges in their young lives, but they found help in the same place: each other.
Luke, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas in North Vancouver, already had a provincial championship under his belt when doctors discovered two benign tumours in his right leg last year.
"It was impairing my peroneal nerve, so I was having trouble moving my foot up and down," he said. "It was causing me to fall down a bit on the course and it was giving me a lot of pain when I was running."
Despite his discomfort, Luke managed to win one more championship in the 800-metre race before finally being flown out to Toronto for surgery.
The operation, while successful, cast uncertainty over his promising track prospects. But while Luke was in recovery, facing a long and extensive rehabilitation process, his mother talked to him about Ges, a cross-country runner a couple years younger who is on the autism spectrum.
"My mom told me Ges had run at Cleveland Dam, and Cleveland Dam was my least favourite course because it's the hilliest, it's got ruts all over the place, it's the worst for footing," he said. "It's ridiculously hard. A lot of people I know have fallen on it."
The two students decided to pair up as training partners while Luke was first getting back on his feet, and made a quick connection on the track. They soon became friends.
Speech is difficult for Ges, but he told CTV News his favourite thing about the sport with help from a computer: "The best part about running is [being] with Luke," he said.
And training together seemed to bolster both boys' performance. Ges shaved minutes off his times, and recently ran a kilometer in four minutes, 58 seconds, marking a personal record.
"He and Luke have been a really good team," coach Colin Dignum said. "He's able to get some enthusiasm and energy out of Ges that other people can't seem to do."
Luke said his running partner, who goes to West Vancouver Secondary, has a drive and determination unlike any he's seen. He credits that passion, in part, for pushing him through his difficult recovery.
"When I got the opportunity to run with Ges, I did it just for fun at first, and just to get back running, and then I saw and was inspired by how tough he was," he said. "He just never gives up."
It also inspired him to campaign for the inclusion of para-athletes on high school cross country teams. He’s already made his case by writing to more than 100 principals in the province.
"Last year when we ran together in the provincial cross-country race it was a lot of fun but there were only two applicants [with special needs]," he said. "I thought it would be just a great mission to get more kids involved who would enjoy running, just like Ges does."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Jason Pires