The 18-year-old who was crowned Lassiter High School’s homecoming king Friday night has high ambitions.
He’s scouting colleges and has competed across the country in track and field sports. He set a new national record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 23.40 seconds this year.
He also has cerebral palsy.
Bryan Powell has never let that define who he is and doesn’t accept any special accolades because of his disability.
Teachers, friends and parents describe him as a smart student, helpful friend and a “110 percent kind of kid.”
Under bright lights at Lassiter High School’s football field Friday night, Bryan was humbled by the honor given by his classmates, who chose him as the school’s homecoming king.
“I’m stunned,” Bryan said. “I didn’t expect that.”
Thunderous applause erupted, drowning out the announcer when he was introduced. The crowd shouted his name after being crowned.
It’s an honor, he said, to be named by his classmates.
Pam Powell, his mother, says it was a traumatic delivery and birth that caused his cerebral palsy, classified as moderate. While his speech is average, he grew up unable to walk without the assistance of a crutch, a cane or another person. But as he grew older, walking became more difficult because his muscles couldn’t keep up with his growth spurt.
Still, Bryan Powell has spent his time in school in traditional classrooms and honors classes.
He shuns the spotlight and his mother said he would “die if he thought anything was handed to him out of pity.”
“When I picked him up from school one day when he was elected on homecoming court … he goes, ‘Mom. I have the worst news ever.’ I am thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. What happened?’” Pam Powell said. “And he said ‘I’ve been elected to homecoming court.’”
She’s continually amazed by the way her son overcomes his disability and strives to be a role model for other athletes.
“Honestly, coming from me it’s not going to sound the same, but I think if you asked anybody who knows him, if you’ve gotten to know him there’s no way that he hasn’t touched you,” Pam Powell said.
Most students can’t juggle the activities that Bryan Powell is involved in, said Katie Griffin, a teacher at Lassiter and the assistant basketball coach of the team he manages.
“That alone shows you how organized and cognitive he is of all the things he accomplishes,” Griffin said.
Griffin says becoming homecoming king is “just another representation that Trojan nation has just been really behind him.
“This is not just a popularity contest,” Griffin said. “This is the students’ way of saying how proud they are of everything he’s accomplished.”
Looking to the future
Bryan Powell is making waves in sports.
He’s ranked No. 3 in the world for his division in track and field and No. 3 for the 100-meter by the Paralympic Committee. He has also been named an All-American by the committee for the last two years.
“I’ve never seen anybody do as much as he does, honestly,” said Pam Powell.
In the National Junior Disability Championships held in July in Rochester, Minn., Powell won all six gold medals in the under-20 division.
In August, he competed in the World Junior Wheelchair and Ambulatory Championships in Puerto Rico where he set personal bests in five of the six events he competed in.
“We’re just stunned how bright his future looks and how much he’s managed to accomplish,” said Pam Powell.
Bryan Powell has hopes of competing in Rio for the 2016 Paralympics Games.
“We really believe that he’ll be in the Paralympics in 2016,” Griffin said.
He wants to pursue an athletics-related career and play sports in college, but that could prove difficult in Georgia.
“There’s not a single college in Georgia that offers any adaptive sports programs,” Pam Powell said.
Though Auburn University is scouting Bryan for its new wheelchair basketball program, she’s concerned about the out-of-state tuition.
No matter the path, Pam Powell says she thinks he’ll be setting records for a long time.
“He really does want to set a standard or show people that … there’s a way to do something,” Pam Powell said.