Denise Klein calls it the toughest thing she’s ever had to do. Well, actually, the two toughest things.
First, she had to tell her 8-year-old son that he had cancer in his leg.
Second, she had to tell him that the doctors would have to amputate his right foot at the ankle.
“I remember thinking he was never going to be able to play baseball or be active,” Denise Klein recalled.
That was seven years ago.
Alex Klein, now a sophomore at Jesuit, hasn’t let that setback slow him down one bit.
The Jesuit sophomore appeared in his first Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state track and field championship Friday in Baton Rouge.
Competing in the para-ambulatory class, Klein set personal bests in three of the four events he competed in.
He ran the 100 meters in 14.58 seconds. He threw the javelin 103 feet. And he ran the 200 meters in 30.37.
He also threw the discus 88 feet, his only event that he didn’t reach a personal best. In three of the four events, he was the only one competing.
But it’s not Klein needs anyone to push him.
He’s self motivated, just like he’s been his whole life.
And the fans appreciated it, as could be heard as he drew some of the loudest cheers of the day from the Bernie Moore Stadium crowd as he sprinted down the track in the 100.
So who could blame Mrs. Klein for how she responds to seeing her only son compete on the biggest stage in LHSAA track?
“It’s emotional to watch it,” she said. “I cry at everything.”
Klein admitted he was a bit nervous competing in front of the largest crowd he has ever ran in front of.
“I heard the crowd, but I was trying to block them out and just focus on technique,” he said.
Klein’s father coached him previously as he competed in competitions like the GUMBO Games (Games Uniting Minds and Bodies) for physically disabled and visually impaired youths. But this is his first year competing on the high school level.
He got a blade to run on last summer and decided to give high school track a shot.
“It’s been really good,” he said. “My teammates have helped me and treated me just like a regular team member.”
Jesuit coach Richard Bohn welcomed Klein with open arms when his parents approached him with the idea.
“You don’t even know he has a prosthetic unless you know he has a prosthetic,” Bohn said.
Klein played everything from flag football to basketball to baseball to bowling as a kid. Now he just focuses on track, reaping the benefits of that decision Friday as he climbed to the top of the award stand.
He was proud. But not as proud as his mom, who watched it all.
“He made all this easy,” she said. “He accepted it. He never asked, ‘Why me?’ or said, ‘This is so hard.’ It’s just a part of his life, and he accepted it.
“And he always did the best with what he had.”