This story was last updated in December 2020.
A fourth-grade star athlete has made headlines for keeping up with high schoolers. However it’s not for the accolade; the selfless student is a guide runner for a blind, autistic teen who needs a helping hand on the cross-country track.
Rebel Hays, 11, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, stepped up as a guide runner for a ninth-grader, Paul Scott, when West Fork High School put out a call for volunteers. Paul, their student, wanted to compete.
Named “Fastest Kid in Fayetteville” for his age bracket in 2019, Holcomb Elementary School student Rebel started out accompanying Scott on 2-mile courses at the beginning of the season. Connected by a handheld rope, the pair graduated to 5K races with an eventual goal of completing a 5K course in under 20 minutes.
As they ran together, the pair became firm friends too.
“Paul and Rebel’s story is so much more than running,” Rebel’s mother, LouAnn, told The Epoch Times via social media. “Paul is also autistic and so he doesn’t have many friends, and so Rebel doesn’t just guide him at races.” They also spend time together, she said, telling jokes and rehearsing card tricks.
Paul, grateful for his young guide’s direction, told WCNC that Rebel “directs me whether there’s a ditch or there’s hills.” Rebel, he said, “inspires me to run faster.”
“If I don’t run this distance, I’m cheating on Paul,” Rebel, who was practicing every day to keep up, reasoned, “so I have to run this distance, or this time, no matter what.” The athlete admitted that the going gets tough, but he loves the challenge nonetheless.
“I just wanna do it for Paul,” he said. “I have to do it for Paul.”
In honor of their partnership, West Fork High School shared a tribute to Rebel and Paul on Facebook. Posting on Oct. 6 after a 5K race at the Chile Pepper where the boys achieved a personal record of 21 minutes, school representatives explained, “Rebel Hays [has] been helping Paul all season long.
“Rebel is a stud runner,” they continued, “but even more importantly, he has a huge heart! Thank you, Rebel! We all appreciate you a lot!”
According to MileSplit Arkansas, which provides the latest Arkansas high school running, cross country, and track & field news, Paul said that his goal this year was to break 21 minutes; however, they missed it at Chile Pepper but achieved it at Van Buren Pointer Classic, finishing with a time of 20:59:44. With assistance and guidance from Rebel, Paul finished 59th out of 135 runners in the 3A boys race at the state Meet in Hot Springs in early November.
Paul still has one more year of eligibility in cross country and has now set a new goal of under 20 minutes.
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