Homestead high jumper medals at New Balance Nationals despite stolen gear

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 11:17 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Ethan Widenhoefer is a junior high jumper at Homestead High School. Earlier this month, he and his mom flew out to Boston for the New Balance Track and Field Indoor Nationals.

It was the biggest stage of his young career.

“It was just cool being there, because it’s, like, the biggest meet in the country,” Ethan said.

But for Ethan, any nerves he had were substituted for panic and anger just an hour before his big event when all his gear, including his shoes, were stolen.

“I walked back around the corner and saw my windbreaker and no bag,” Ethan said.

Ethan told his mom, Michelle, and the panic immediately set in for them both.

“My thought was, all of this time and effort, and all of this hard work, and he’s not even going to be able to compete,” Michelle said.

With little time to spare, there were minimal options left for Ethan. Luckily, a fellow competitor heard about Ethan’s missing gear and let him borrow an extra pair of shoes.

Even though the shoes were half a size too small, it meant Ethan was at least going to compete.

“Everything happens for a reason, and it just worked out,” Ethan said.

With his adrenaline pumping, it became time for Ethan’s event. With his new shoes, he did the unthinkable. He set a new personal best at 6′7″ and medaled as an All-American.

“It was like a moment of shock,” Ethan said. “Like, I had to stop myself from letting a tear come down.”

Watch Ethan’s high jump below:

But for Ethan’s mom, she couldn’t stop herself from letting the tears of joy flow.

“The video that I took... he gets over the bar, and you can just hear me screaming and crying,” Michelle said.

After the meet, a representative at New Balance heard about Ethan’s story and was blown away by his resilience. He was able to connect with Ethan and send him brand new gear.