Patrick Ahearn's career as a track star was put on hold when the high school senior lost part of his leg in a boating accident in August. But not even the amputation of his foot could keep the determined teenager permanently off the track, where he previously held the title of Norman High School cross-country captain.
The Oklahoma teen on Friday completed his first race since his injury. Running on a prosthetic leg, Ahearn sprinted across the finish line to a standing ovation from audience members rallied on the sidelines.
“Whenever I came around that corner I saw everyone right there on the track and everybody in the stands was on their feet. That was pretty cool," Ahearn told local newspaper The Norman Transcript.
Ahearn lost his left foot and part of his leg after being critically injured in a jet ski accident in August, while vacationing in Florida. According to the Oklahoman, Ahearn's vehicle collided with a 38-foot boat's propeller. He suffered a serious head injury and was airlifted to a local hospital, where part of his left leg was later amputated.
After five months of rehabilitation, Ahearn began walking again, but a return to the track before the end of the spring season still seemed out of the question. Even if Ahearn could be fitted in time with a special prosthetic leg for running, it wouldn't be ready for wear until weeks later.
As The Oklahoman reports, that's when Ahearn's prosthetist, Kyle Wagner, stepped in. Wagner contacted prosthetic design company Freedom Innovations, and relayed Ahearn's story. The company, keen to let a young runner test one of its products during a competition, obliged and put in a rush order for a runner's blade.
Two weeks before the race, Ahearn was fitted with the prosthetic and took it home, free of charge.
While his subsequent track meet performance did not match his previous records, Ahearn did run his best time since his injury, finishing the 400-meter race in 1 minute, 32 seconds.
But, according to the Transcript, Ahearn said the best part of his day was running again with his team and "not watching everything from the sidelines."