Dallas Wise has demonstrated a strong independence all his life, one which has helped him exceed other’s expectations of him in the sports arena despite being born with a disability characterized by arm weakness and loss of motion.
The 20-year-old’s refusal to limit himself and excel in a multiplicity of sports within both high school and college has propelled him to be selected to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Team in Para Track and Field.
‘I had a purpose’
The games will be held from Aug. 24-Sept. 5. Wise, the son of Meredith Wise, a deputy with the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, will participate in the long jump on Aug. 27 and the high jump on Aug. 29.
He said the excitement of being chosen for the games will not likely hit him until he’s in Tokyo. The Columbia resident will leave for Tokyo on Aug. 10.
“In track and field, it’s always your goal to go to the next step. So I kind of lived in the moment when I got the news. Basically, it’s not going to hit me until I actually compete and go to Tokyo. I don’t know, I didn’t really feel anything," Wise said.
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“I was shocked, but I realized it’s not done yet until I’m actually there. I can say I got chosen for the team, but until I’m actually like there and compete, I don’t think I’m going to feel it until that moment,” he said.
Wise was born with Erb’s palsy, a condition which can occur in both infants and adults. It’s typically caused by a physical injury during newborn delivery or by traumatic force downward on the upper arm and shoulder, damaging the brachial plexus, a network of nerves near the neck that provide movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers.
Wise, who attended Dutch Fork High School and is now a junior at Coastal Carolina University, has not let his disability keep him from achieving his goals.
“It’s about being mentally prepared. Growing up, I had to prepare myself. I had to build myself up. We can’t put limitations on ourselves. We really can’t think about our disability. We’ve got to work 10 times harder as the able-bodied athletes,” he said.
He continued, “We’re normal, but we just have some setbacks. We have to be there mentally. There are some tough times where we just look at ourselves and we degrade ourselves, but at the same time, we’ve got to keep pushing because there’s nothing we can do. But at the same time, we can’t let it hold us back either.”
Wise said he realized that “every day that I was on the track, that I had a purpose.”
“I knew why I was at the track,” he said.
Wise was a multi-letter sport winner in football, basketball and track and field at Dutch Fork High School, earning multiple All-State, All-Region, All-County and All-Midlands conference honors during his high school career, where he played basketball during his freshman year and football up until his junior year.
He was awarded the Excellence in the Making Award, a three-time MVP for the field events and named to the Best All-State Track and Field Team. Dallas is a two-time 5-A state champion in football and a state champion in the high jump.
At Coastal Carolina, Wise broke the school record this year in the triple jump.
“I could have gone to regionals for three events this year. That’s kind of big, but I couldn’t go this year because I had to do some Team USA things,” he said.
He said training for the paralympic games has not been much different than his usual training regimen.
“I’ve kind of been doing the same training program I’ve been doing since I’ve been in college. Most people think when you’re at the next level it’s a different type of training, but it’s really not like anything different. It’s really how you prepare mentally and how you take care of your body off the track. That gets you further in life, and that’s how it goes,” Wise said.
What is he looking forward to when he lands in Tokyo? It will surprisingly include more than what he does on the track field.
“I’m most looking forward to the experience, not really just track and field. I’m trying to really experience more cultures and more traditions. I just want to see how other foreign lands are and how they operate over there. I know it’s going to be very different than here in America,” Wise said.
“Also, I’m going to look forward to the food too. As I grew up with my mom, she always took me to Japanese places. I just want to know the difference,” he said.
Wise has always loved sports and grew up playing multiple sports at one time.
“I just love being out there and doing what I’ve got to do,” he said, noting that he’s developed a mindset for success.
“I try not to let my life or my personal reasons come into conflict with my track. Even if I felt like I was going through something while I was competing, I’d always try to take my anger or my pain out through sports. That’s how I kind of excelled, but in training you got to be 100 percent mentally there in order to succeed,” he said.
Wise continued, “You can’t doubt yourself. You’ve just got to go on to competition like every day’s a new day to get better and a new opportunity. You’ve just got to tell yourself that. Even though you didn’t make a good personal best this track meet, you know that the next one you can excel in.
“Try not to beat yourself up, and that’s really what most of these athletes do to themselves in track. When they feel like training’s not going well, then they often beat themselves up, or they turn to an alternative and just not be focused at all. They’re so focused on, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ They’re so focused on the doubt instead of focusing on the competition.”
He said he commended decorated gymnast Simone Biles for stepping back from the pressures of the Olympics to take care of her mental health.
“It could be other personal reasons why Simone doesn’t want to compete. I’m all for her because every athlete is human. We’re all human beings, and we all go through plenty of trauma. It could be family reasons, it could be personal reasons. No one knows what goes on in an athlete’s life. They just the know the athlete for sports and competing. That’s cool, but outside of track, we’re human. We’re normal people,” Wise said.
‘He tries to go above and beyond’
Meredith says she is proud of her son and his accomplishments.
“I’m very proud of him. He works hard. I really don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to say anything about his grades, or none of that. He’s always been independent. A little aggravating at times, but I think that’s with any kid,” she said.
At Coastal Carolina, her son has received awards for making the 2019-20 Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll (3.0-3.49 GPA) and spring of 2020 Dean’s List (3.50-3.99 GPA).
Meredith, who also has an older son, Justin, a truck driver, said her youngest child was always independent.
“He didn’t want anybody to help him with anything. I know when he was a year old, he got into a lot of stuff, but if you tried to help him with anything, like with the little learning toys, he was like, ‘No, no, I got it.’ I just leave him be. So he mostly was a mama’s boy under my mom. He pretty much got away with a lot of stuff,” she said, noting that her mom, Patricia, passed away last January.
She said she and Justin are looking forward to watching the games virtually. Outside spectators are not allowed at the games because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Outside spectators can’t go, but I’m kind of looking forward to him experiencing the different cultures and the diversity. I always wanted that for both of my children,” she said, noting that Dallas had told his grandmother that he would one day be at the Olympic Games.
“Before my mother passed last January, he would tell her, ‘Mom, you’re going to see me on TV. I’m going to the Olympics.’ So he already had it planned that he was going,” Meredith said.
She said she is proud that her son has developed a mindset to not let anything stop him, including outside pressures which sometimes sideline athletes from doing what they just naturally love.
“I say that with any athlete, to include my son. While he was in trials, he saw other athletes with disabilities. I think that’s going to make him become a little bit stronger mentally because he does see other people in either the same condition, or worse than him. He tries to go above and beyond,” Meredith said.
She recalled the time when a doctor told her son, who was in middle school at the time, that the sports he would mostly likely not participate in were wrestling and swimming.
What did he do?
“Dallas tried out for the wrestling team. He made the team and won his first match. ... He was like, ‘Mom, I did it because the doctor told me that I couldn’t do it.’ You can’t tell him what he can’t do because he’s going to do it just to prove you wrong,” Meredith said.
Wise said he has appreciated his mother’s support over the years.
“She was a single mother. She had to take on both roles of being my father and my mother. She never babied me. It was more like tough love. She wasn’t harsh growing up, but she was stern,” he said, noting that he takes his academics as seriously as his sports.
“I know why I’m in college. I’m not there to party and hang out all the time. I know that I’m going to party sometimes and hang out with my friends, but I know that that could be taken away from me if I don’t stay on my grades. That’s just something I’ve got to do,” he said.
Meredith said she will be a little concerned when he son leaves for Tokyo, but she’s optimistic he will have a good experience.
“As a mom, I’ll be a little worried about him, but I think he’ll be OK. He’s traveled more this summer than he ever has,” she said.
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“I was shocked, but I realized it’s not done yet until I’m actually there. I can say I got chosen for the team, but until I’m actually like there and compete, I don’t think I’m going to feel it until that moment."
-- Dallas Wise