After 4 years of state track experience, Steamboat’s Jon Ruehle isn’t finished running
LAKEWOOD — Running at the state track meet is still a thrill for Jon Ruehle, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School who participated in the Paralympic races each of the last years and for the last time on Friday.
It’s no longer a groundbreaking experience for him, however.
When Ruehle first toed the starting line at the state meet in 2015, he wasn’t exactly new to track. He began running when he was in junior high in Steamboat. Still, the state meet was a new experience and a part of a journey that had helped him socially as he progressed into high school.
Born prematurely and given a 50 percent chance of living by doctors, Ruehle has been overcoming hurdles his entire life. He was born blind in one eye and severely nearsighted in the other. He’s also dealt with autism and running has helped himself open up to classmates and the world.
“It’s been a great part of his life, and he’ll have lifelong friends from the teammates and coaches who have cared for him and nurtured him through the process,” his mother, Pam Ruehle said Friday, walking across the infield of JeffCo stadium at the state meet with her son.
As a freshman, Jon worked with several students on the team, and they waited for him at the finish line of a 100-meter dash.
Since then, he’s only grown more independent. He’s been a fixture on both the track team every spring and the cross country team in the fall, and he’s gotten more serious about running over time.
He ran two races at state, a 100 on Thursday and a 200 on Friday. He was happy with his performance in both, he said, but a little disappointed he didn’t run faster in the 200.
His highlight from this season? That was at the Western Slope Junior Varsity meet earlier this month at Eagle Valley High School where he finished his 200 in a personal best time of 29.87 seconds.
That’s a big step forward from his freshman season when he his best time was 38.15.
“I wanted to be faster,” he said of Friday’s race because he knows he can.
He showed similar improvement through the years in the 100, cutting three seconds off his personal best, from 17.95 to 14.34.
Those achievements were certainly something his mom took pride in, but that’s not all she saw in his high school career.
“What’s exciting is how much he loves the social part, being with his teammates,” she said. “I see him interacting with the kids much more, really being a part of the team, helping cheering his teammates on and wanting to ride the bus to and from meets and not just ride with his parents.”
Running is only one part of what’s sparked his progress. Pam Ruehle said her son has grown in so many ways since he decided to start running.
“In these four years, he’s matured so much and gained so much more independence, which track and cross country has helped with, as have so many other things and just growing up and settling into himself,” she said. “He’s really embraced senior year and has done so many more things.”
Next for him is the STRIDES Transition Program with Yampa Valley Autism Program, designed to help with the next steps in life, whether it means getting a job or attending some classes at Colorado Mountain College.
He’s not quite done running, however.
Even though he’s graduating from the high school and its athletics programs, he reached out to track and cross country coach Lisa Renee Tumminello, asking if he could continue to help the team next season as an alum.
She eagerly agreed.
So, why bother? Why stick around running for four years, then ask to keep helping the program for a fifth?
He has a simple answer for that.
“Because I love it,” he said.
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