There is no debating it. Superman wears Blue and Gold.
The Superman I speak of is Old Forge’s very own Kiel Eigen. Mostly every one knows the story. A heralded junior high athlete, Eigen broke the C5 vertebrae in his neck while making a tackle on a kickoff in a freshman football game on the first play of the first game during his eighth grade season, leaving him paralyzed.
Since then, the effervescent 18-year old has been confined to his wheelchair - at least in public.
As you know now, Eigen has been out of his chair for almost a year, taking steps with the aid of a walker and leg braces under the direction of former Wyoming Area standout athlete Angie Kleback who now works as the Blue Devils athletic trainer.
Those “baby steps” as Kiel told me last week turned into the biggest comeback story of any Old Forge athlete to ever don the Blue and Gold. But there was more to this story that just one night.
For four years Kiel has watched his classmates, friends and teammates practice and play the sports he loves – football and basketball.
But Eigen has done more than watch.
He has without a doubt been his teams’ biggest teacher and biggest cheerleader. Not a game nor practice has passed that Kiel has not been there to coach and encourage his teammates. Those of us around the Old Forge programs know Eigen has taught the Blue Devils more in four short years that any coach could in a lifetime.
How could he not.
As Old Forge football and basketball player Connor Fultz told me last week the Blue Devils knew that no one wanted to be out on the fields and courts more than Eigen. That, he said, was inspiration enough for he and his teammates. Fultz continued that the hard work and determination Kiel has shown them as they have grown up is proof that you can achieve anything if you really want to.
From the day of his accident, all Kiel wanted to do was join is teammates on the playing surfaces – and they wanted the same for him. So while they practiced basketball this season, they also watched and encouraged Eigen as he practiced his walking around the same gym.
The idea – and the goal – was to walk in public during Senior Parents Night before the last home game of the season.
So on Tuesday night, Eigen showed a sold-out, standing-room only crowd what he had been practicing in the Devils Den since November while his teammates were practicing the sport at which he had once excelled.
His performance didn’t disappoint.
Like the competitor he is, Eigen – gameface and all – walked out of the locker room, along the baseline and to midcourt where he met his parents, Kandi and Keith, for a photo just like every other senior who was honored that night.
And finally, with the student-body chanting “Super-man! Super-man! Super-man!” over and over, again and again, Kiel cracked a smile. Victory was his. And he was savoring every moment of this victory, taking in the thunderous applause that he had finally earned.
This was his moment. This was his game. He had practiced as hard as any athlete ever had in preparation for this competition. He had overcome obstacles too great for any mere mortal to overcome.
An Old Forge alum posted this on facebook hours before Kiel took to his feet….
“Old Forge has achieved many special things through the years. We’ve had many championships. We have seen undefeated seasons, personal achievements and a lot of wins. When we lost, most times, the other team simply didn’t feel like they won. Tonight the greatest achievement, surpassing all, will take place when Kiel Eigen walks across that gym floor. Once again one of us refuses to be beaten ...”
I couldn’t have written it better myself.
Superman landed in Old Forge this past week.
And he was wearing Blue and Gold.