A Salina High School basketball player is beating the odds

Thursday, January 20th 2005, 6:21 am
By: News On 6

Life could have turned out very differently for 17 year old Ronnie Bark. But he, his family and high school classmates decided to take what makes him different and use it to make him better.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin has his story.

When number 20 on the Salina Wildcats steps onto the court, the crowd goes crazy. Like many high school athletes, 17-year old Ronnie Bark lives for the game. What sets this player apart isn't just his ability to shoot the three.

Ronnie has Down Syndrome, but it's a challenge Ronnie overcomes and one that doesn't play a large role in his everyday life. Ronnie’s mom Pauline Bark: "I never think of him as being different, I just never do. He just likes the excitement of the game, there's something about the love of sports for him."

Far from making Ronnie an outcast, Salina students have embraced him. Salina High School principal Tony Thomas: "He comes to school everyday with a positive attitude, he loves basketball has a passion for it, and we've got great kids at Salina and they're wonderful to Ronnie."

He's a fan favorite at games. He may not be a starter, but he's a beloved member of the team and does get in some playing time. Head basketball coach Brandon Heath: "He's just real inspirational for the whole team, he's always on time for practice and games and he just loves the game and he's real supportive of things we do. It don't matter who you are, you gotta love a kid like that that has heart like that."

Ronnie's love of basketball was inherited from his father and became apparent at an early age. Fans often approach the Barks and tell them how much they enjoy watching him play. Pauline Bark: “A thrill, kind of tearful, especially the first time he went out on the high school team and got out on the floor, just the way the crowd was. He gets out there like he's an NBA player you know."

Pauline never doubted her son's ability. As far as Ronnie's concerned, the only special need in his life is to win. And if you're wondering, he can score. One of his shots Wednesday night was Ronnie's 11th three-pointer this season.

Ronnie hopes one day to be a coach.