There's only one way to get to Carnegie ... practice, practice, practice
Tom Towne was as fast as they came in the late ‘60s playing for the Wyanet Eagles football and track teams.
He rushed for 291 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries, playing only the half to lead the Eagles to a big Homecoming victory in his junior season in 1967.
He earned three letters for the Wyanet football team, playing for back-to-back undefeated conference champions his sophomore and junior seasons. Both teams were inducted in the Bureau County Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
He ran like the wind in track, running a 10.3 for the 100-yard dash on top of a 21-6 long jump and received the WHS Track Award.
The fact that Towne lost his right leg in 2013 is not slowing the old Wyanet Eagle down.
Towne, who gladly surrendered all of his family records in football and track to his son, Aaron, aka “A Train,” a 1995 PHS graduate, has turned his attention to archery, having recently won the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association wheelchair division in Lake Forest.
It’s an award he’s quite proud of and likes to often remind his wife and high school sweetheart, the former Debbie Perry.
It was 2013 when Towne developed blood clots in his right leg, making it painful to walk for any distance. His doctor found he also had low blood pressure in the leg and referred him to a vascular surgeon in Peoria.
Stents were put in his leg, but proved ineffective. Grafts worked great for three years, Towne said, but the blood clots began to return each time they cleaned the grafts out.
“The last time it clotted, they took the leg off above the knee,” Towne said.
Two days later, the leg became infected by gangrene and they ran Towne in for a emergency surgery for a “guillotine cut” to remove the whole leg.
“I’m doing OK. I’ve got a good life,” said Towne, who uses a walker to get around and has a a prosthetic leg when needed. “My dad always told me, just when you think you’ve got it bad, there’s always somebody else that’s worse.”
It’s hard to keep a good man down. While in the doctor’s office, Towne picked up a magazine featuring a story on disabled activities and he wrote down the website and number.
“They had wheelchair racing, basketball events, swimming events, and they had archery after I got dialed in. I shot arrows and arrows, about a hundred a day. I said if I don’t enter that someday, I’ll always wish I did, so we did.”
The funny thing is, Towne never knew he won. He felt like he shot well, but when the event was over, his family left and went out to lunch.
“Oh, I was shooting good. The guys that retrieved the arrows, said, ‘OK, man, you’re hitting 8-10s.’ In my second to last volley, I shot all six 10s.”
Another competitor happened to stop at the same restaurant and told Towne he missed out on the awards ceremony. He still didn’t think anything about it, because he knew she shot a lot better than he did, not aware she was in another division, standing, while he competed in wheelchair.
The next morning he reported back to the event and learned he took first place in his division.
“I said, you’re kidding me. I was shocked,” Towne said. “I just wanted the experience. I got the experience and got the first place.”
Towne shoots often in his garage at his home in Dover and has a target set up in his backyard as well. The thud of the arrow hitting the target is party of his daily routine.
“That’s my third one. I’ve already worn out two targets,” he said.
I asked him to shoot a round and predict how many he’d hit.
“I never miss the target, but I don’t get a bull’s-eye every time,” he said.
With his lucky archery hat in place, Towne locked his arrow in place, took aim and pulled back before releasing the fleeting dart through the calm air of the mid-morning sunny day in Dover.
“Now, that’s a bull’s-eye,” Towne said excitedly.
He said he will likely return to compete next year, because he enjoyed his first experience so much.
“I’ll keep practicing. I’ll keep showing. It’s a good sport. You can reuse the ammo. Pretty cheap once you get all this, and you can have fun all day long. It’s something I can do,” said Towne, who also likes to shoot pellet guns, pistols and rifles.
“There’s only one way to get to Carnegie Hall ... practice, practice, practice.”
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him email@example.com.