Even though she suffered a stroke while in her mother’s womb, deals with cerebral palsy on a daily basis and occasionally has seizures, Captain Shreve freshman Rhiannon Dykes is emblematic of all that’s good about athletics.
Participating in the Games Uniting Mind and Body, a sports competition for students with physical or visual disabilities for the 10th consecutive year on Friday at Lee Hedges Stadium, has given Dykes focus during her first year of high school.
“I attribute Rhiannon’s success academically to what she has learned through athletics like the GUMBO games and Special Olympics,” said her mother, Danielle. “I think sometimes people underestimate the power of sports and the influence that coaches have on kids.”
Dykes, who just began reading about three years ago, is staying on the A-B honor roll at Shreve.
“Once she began reading, things really took off for her,” Danielle Dykes said.
The 15-year-old is one of the star pupils for Captain Shreve special education teacher Martha Goza.
“Rhiannon is a distinguished scholar her freshman year,” Goza said. “She works extremely hard to achieve her goals; motivation is synonymous with his young lady. Rhiannon has a smile and a laugh that is contagious, affecting all around her. She is a delightful student to have in class.”
Dykes likes Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and “any pop that doesn’t involve rap.”
“I don’t like sad songs. I like Adele, but ‘Hello’ and ‘When we were Young’ make me cry,” she said. “I like the way Taylor sings, but I usually don’t like love songs. But sometimes I do.”
Competing in the discus, shot put and 100-meter dash on Friday, Dykes was a little nervous, since she was moving up to the senior class for the first time, competing against more seasoned athletes. Nevertheless, she appeared calm and had no problem chattering with her mother and aunt, Denise Ponder.
“Rhiannon speaks her mind with absolutely no filter,” Ponder said chuckling.
On tests following the in-womb stroke, a local neurologist told the Dykes that Rhiannon would be “profoundly disabled,” according to her mother. But that hasn’t turned out to be the case.
“It’s funny. The stroke affected my creative side (in a positive way),” Rhiannon said. “I can sing. But most of the time I wish I could do what other kids do.”
Captain Shreve was a good choice for her daughter, said Danielle, who noted that Rhiannon has won about 30 medals during her athletic career.
“I was terrified to bring her to Captain Shreve, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Dykes said. “Captain Shreve has been incredible with special needs students, and they have a great principal.”
Dykes credits long time Caddo Parish teacher/coach Penny Potter with pushing her daughter to excel.
“She wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Danielle Dykes said.
Responded Rhiannon: “She pretty much forced me to run.”
The teenager is also sold on being a Gator.
“They don’t treat people badly like some other schools do,” Rhiannon said. “They treat people equally.”