Thanks to the Wyoming Coaches Association for the information.

The Profiles in Courage award was first presented at the 1999 State Track Meet. The purpose of this award is to recognize young athletes who have had to overcome adversity in order to fulfill their athletic dreams – things like disabilities, illnesses, and tragedies.  This is dedicated to Nancy Nakahara, who coached volleyball and basketball in Lyman, before serving as Athletic Director.  Nancy had a long fight with Polymiocitis, a disease similar to MS.  Nancy also helped announce the State Track meet as well as serving at various other sporting events.

This year’s recipients include:

Chance Maddock from Cokeville and Brianna Smith from Sheridan, who could not be in attendance.

The following three recipients were honored at the State Track Meet:

McKenzie Thompson, from Cokeville High School, is the daughter of Bill & Ellen Thompson.  McKenzie decided at the end of her sophomore year to hit the weight room and develop her foot speed, and with the help of her father, she was a steady person in the weight room. As her junior year started, she was a lot faster and a lot stronger.  She helped lead Cokeville to the state volleyball championship match, and she was selected as an all-state player.  As basketball began, her basketball coaches realized she had improved her speed, but five games into the season, McKenzie blew her ACL in a game at Dubois. She was told it would take 8 months to completely recover. She would have to miss volleyball camp and basketball camp, but if she got operated on soon, she might make it back for volleyball. She sat on the bench during basketball and cheered her team on to a 3rd place finish at state. She continued to work hard in the weight room and was diligent doing her physical therapy. She did miss volleyball camp and basketball camp and was given the okay to start to play volleyball on August 15, 2010. With her work ethic, she again helped Cokeville play for the state volleyball championship and was instrumental in helping her basketball team win the state basketball championship. She was selected as the 3 Trails Conference Volleyball Player of the Year.  She was also picked for the all-state volleyball team and will be performing for the South Volleyball All-stars this summer.

Zak Allen, Farson-Eden High School.

Zak’s athletic career has included basketball, wrestling, track and field, and football manager.  While he has never been named as an all-star in any sport, he has been recognized for his sportsmanship often.

Zak is not fast, he cannot jump high, he is not powerful, and he is not athletic.  What he has is love of “the game” and unequaled determination.  Zak has a rare medical condition called Arthrogryposis (arthro-gry-posis) which causes stiffening of his joints.  He is unable to bend his knees, so he cannot jump and he must run stiff legged.  He does not have full range of motion in most joints, and the disease makes his bones very brittle.

He began his sporting career in middle school, playing for the Farson-Eden basketball team. It was here that Zak began to catch the eyes of sports fans in Southwest Wyoming.  They saw a little fellow trudging up the floor, getting involved with a pass, playing some defense and positioning himself for a rebound. When he got knocked to the floor, he began the slow and the obviously painful process of pulling himself back to his feet.  That act alone took more effort than most people would ever put themselves through for the sake of participation.

Zak claims his biggest challenge is wishing that he could be better, but acknowledging his limitation. He says he feels badly that he cannot contribute enough to a team that has struggled with success for the past couple of years.  The biggest attribute Zak brings to the Pronghorn basketball team is that he never, ever quits.  No matter what the score, no matter what the situation, he is a true inspiration to his teammates, opponents and fans everywhere.  Zack never makes excuses, never blames his condition or offers an alibi; he just buckles down and works harder.  He is always respectful; to adults, teammates and opponents.  If someone falls behind in practice, Zak is the first to be beside him in an offer to pick him up. Human beings of lesser character would just take themselves out the game and be forever spectators.

One thing Zak has always done to improve his basketball skills is to attend summer skills camps. He attends all the Farson-Eden team camps as well as several individual camps.  While in Laramie last summer with his basketball team at camp, University of Wyoming Men’s Head Basketball coach Heath Schroyer offered Zak an opportunity to continue his dream - he offered Zak a scholarship as a student-manager for the Cowboy basketball team, and this is an opportunity that will be carried through with new Head Coach Larry Shyatt.

Michael Lamb, Big Horn High School

Michael sees himself as a football player, but those around him see him as an inspiration.

Born in Ivanavo, Russia with major birth defects to his legs and arm, Michael has taken football to a new level by playing with prosthetic legs.  In nearly every respect the Big Horn High School freshman defensive back and wide receiver is no different from his 32 teammates; the exception is Lamb was born without feet or a left hand and forearm.

At age 10 Michael fell in love with football and after nagging his mom to let him play; he started by playing flag football.  A super aggressive and competitive kid, it seems that nothing could keep him from chasing his dreams.

The first to jump into drills or want to get into the game, Michael is no different than other Freshman.  Most teammates play keep away or hide each other’s shoes, but for Michael that is his leg.

Michael has never doubted his ability and has overcome these disabilities.

Longtime Big Horn head coach Bert Dow said having Michael on his squad “is a coach’s dream.  This young man, despite having only one hand and two artificial legs, doesn't back awayfrom anything,” Dow said. “He is the first one to jump into a drill. He is willing to play any position.  He just wants to get out and play football.”

“He is an inspiration to everyone around him, be it his teammates or anyone who gets to watch him play,” Dow said. “The thing that I admire the most is that he doesn't look at it that way. In his mind his situation isn't anything that he can't handle, deal with or overcome.”  It is an honor to have him on this team.”

Michael’s Mom, Nancy Lamb, said it has been amazing to see how Michael approaches not only football but also life. “What the world might see is tragic, Michael sees as normal,” she said. “God is weaving this tapestry— this masterpiece. And what might appear as twisted threads is actually beautiful. This life can be fulfilling no matter what the circumstances are, and Michael proves that.”