Arizona Daily Wildcat Online
· Football
Live Culture
Police Beat
Online Crossword
Photo Spreads
The Wildcat
Letter to the Editor
Wildcat staff
Job Openings
Advertising Info
Student Media
Arizona Student Media info
UATV - student TV
KAMP - student radio
Daily Wildcat staff alumni

Rolling toward the finish line

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Engineering math senior Tyler Byers inches toward the finish line to end his practice yesterday morning. Byers, a member of the UA's wheelchair racing team and Wildchair basketball team, begins practice every day at 6 a.m. to train for the Paralympics.
By Jill Holt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 1, 2003

Senior racing team and Wildchair basketball team member to compete in Sunday's Run ĪN' Roll

When Tyler Byers was born, the doctor told his mom she should just let him die.

Byers was born with Sacral Agenesis, a neural tube defect. He's missing all the bones in his sacrum, the lower five bones in his spine. Instead of forming properly, the bones joined together in a solid mass that impeded Byers' growth, circulation and nerve development, leaving him wheelchair-bound and his legs underdeveloped.

Despite the doctor's advice, Byers' mom stood firm.

"My mom looked in my eyes and said, ĪNo, he's normal,'" Byers said. "She said, ĪNo, you're not taking my baby away.' I'm glad she did that."

The doctor who wanted to let him die was later sued repeatedly for malpractice.

Byers grew up to become a man who friends say is "really motivated" and has a passion for athletics.

Since he was young, the 21-year-old has been really involved in wheelchair sports, particularly racing.

Although he is hesitant to talk about them ÷ he doesn't like to brag ÷ Byers' list of accomplishments runs long.

At the World Championship Trials in April, he placed eighth in the world and broke the U.S. record for the 1,500-meter with a time of 3:02.59 and an average speed of 18.1 mph. Then he moved on to the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship finals, the able-bodied world track meet held every second year. It was held last August in Paris in front of a crowd of about 70,000 people.

He said the finals were a great experience and it was a blast racing in front of that many people, but, unfortunately, he finished last because of equipment failure due to rain and bad weather.

He has a really good work ethic and is such a great natural athlete.

- Matt Gee
Byers' longtime friend and teammate


Byers is now training intensely for the Paralympics; he practices with the UA's racing team every day at 6 a.m. Byers is the assistant coach of the nine-member team, which was created in 1997.

Racing coach Derek Brown helped recruit Byers while he was still in high school, offering him a scholarship. He said he expects Byers to surpass his eighth-place ranking this year, as he tries to make the Paralympic team. In order to qualify for the elite team, an athlete must achieve the qualifying time by June 1.

"The criteria are so strict that, if you make the qualifying time, you are basically guaranteed to medal at the Games," he said.

Byers' longtime friend and racing teammate Matt Gee, an undeclared sophomore, said Byers has one of the best chances to make the team.

"He has a really good work ethic and is such a great natural athlete," he said.

The Paralympics will take place in August in Greece, two weeks after the Olympics, at the same venue. The Paralympics are the second largest athletic competition in the world, second only to the Olympics.

Byers is also readying for Sunday's Jim Click Run ĪN' Roll, a fundraiser that benefits the Disability Resource Center's Adaptive Athletic program. He won the race in 1998, 2000 and 2001, and he finished second in 1999 and 2002.

Byers, who holds Junior National records in the 100- and 200-meter races, has also raced in the Boston Marathon and L.A. Marathon three times each.

He had a close call in Boston this year when, at mile 24, his racing chair broke and the front wheel fell off, causing him to crash. He did not suffer any injuries in the accident.

Byers also plays wheelchair basketball for the UA on the Wildchair coed team. He had no prior experience with basketball, but he stuck with it after attending a practice freshman year because some of his racing buddies were on the team.

Mark It

Catch Byers as he competes in Jim Click's Run ĪN' Roll
When: 6:45 a.m., Sunday
Where: University Blvd., east of North Cherry Avenue

He said he didn't intend to play this year because of his Paralympics training, but he missed it so much over the summer that he decided to go back.

"(Basketball) provides an outlet, and (I love) that one-on-one, team aspect," he said.

Byers also interacts well with his racing teammates, Brown said, adding that he sets a good academic example. Byers consistently makes the dean's list and is in the Honors College.

"He is a great mentor, and is always prepared," he said. "He's also been a great role model academically. He is a great example of a student athlete because he not only excels athletically, but academically as well. He's a great representative of our program and will represent the U.S. well in 2004 (in the Olympics) and beyond."

Off the court and out of the classroom, Byers is active in Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity.

He said his favorite service project is Lifecare, through which he visits nursing home residents every Wednesday.

"(Byers) is always thinking of others, especially at Lifecare where he tried really hard to develop a meaningful relationship with the residents," said studio art junior Alison Sylvester, Byers' good friend and fellow Alpha Phi Omega member.

When he can, Byers also enjoys spending time with his fiancŽ, nursing junior Analee Olson.

"We don't get much time together, so doing whatever, even homework, is great, as long as it's together," he said. "She is a great person and is always there for me when I need it, and I am blessed to have her in my life."

The couple enjoy talking about their days and plans for the future.

Byers' major is engineering math, and, after graduation, which he estimates will be "May/Decemberish," he will probably go to graduate school. Lately, he has been thinking about becoming a teacher.

He and Olson plan to live in an apartment first, and then eventually buy a house in the Southwest and have a family.

"We're thinking maybe four kids," he said. "Halfway between big and small."

Byers said he will never forget the decision his mother made, and the many obstacles he's had to overcome since then. Nevertheless, he is happy, confident and looking forward to whatever life brings.

Something to say? Discuss this on WildChat
Or write a Letter to the Editor
Rolling toward the finish line
Restaurant and Bar guide


Webmaster -
© Copyright 2003 - The Arizona Daily Wildcat - Arizona Student Media