SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Student athlete making strides despite physical disability

SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Port Allen teen isn't letting her disability stop her

PORT ALLEN, La. (WAFB) - Aryanna Porter, 17, just wrapped up her junior year at Port Allen High School.

She’s coming off of a groundbreaking year. Not only is Porter a star student with dreams of becoming a pediatrician, she’s also a star athlete who competes on the girls track and field team. On top of that, Porter also switches back and forth between the cheer and dance team.

“Aryanna is definitely an inspirational child,” said Port Allen High School Cheer Coach Tamyria Miller. “I probably have to say that she is one of the most inspirational people because like I said, I’m 27 and this child still inspires me.”

So what makes Porter so inspirational? She’s doing it all with one leg.

Porter has dermatomyositis. It’s an inflammatory disease of the muscles. When she was younger, it caused a lot of calcium to build up in her body. The calcium gets in between joints, making it harder, and painful, to move her muscles.

She was only 8 years old when her right leg was amputated from the middle knee down. Porter doesn’t see herself differently from any other kid with two legs though.

“I can do the same thing everybody else can do,” Porter said. “I might have some limitations, but I know someday I’ll get there.”

She’s done that and succeeded far beyond anyone’s expectations. This past spring, Porter broke five state records and three personal records for javelin, discus, and shot put.

“Physically, is she limited? Yeah, and we can see. Mentally, is she limited? No, and that’s the strongest part. If you’re mentally strong then physically, you will overcome and I tell all kids that. If you’re strong mentally, you won’t fall short. She has persevered through everything she has tried and she’s excelled,” explained Head PAHS Track & Field Coach Brian Bizette.

Porter weighs about 80 lbs. In power lifting, she can bench about 85 lbs.

“She lifts her body weight. With the push-ups that we implement during the season training and the weight lifting, her physical limitations are catching up with her mental abilities. That’s the whole thing, never give up,” Bizette said.

Porter sits on the shoulders of a community that believes in her... quite literally. For her to participate in track and field events, she needs a customized chair to help her sit up straight. Coach and adaptive PE teacher, Kimberly Bryant, sits underneath Porter to help stabilize her body when she throws. The chair was built by the community to provide support in more ways than one.

“We were able to get the chair donated to us by some companies in Addis and Plaquemine. They fully funded it,” said Bryant. “They gave us the materials, they welded it for us, they even put her name on the bottom and then my sweet mom, she even put the finishing touches and put some cushions and stuff on it too.”

This record-breaking state champion requires all upper body strength to compete. That’s why she has a team of coaches to help her get to where she needs to be. Her coaches know what she’s fully capable of.

“When you know a kid can throw 100 and they are throwing 80, something ain’t right. So stop playing and throw the 100,” said PAHS Assistant Track Coach Leonard Parker. “Well Aryanna, if she throwing 19 in discus or javelin, stop playing Aryanna and let’s throw this javelin 22 feet. For somebody looking at me, they might say, ‘Oh, he’s being mighty hard on her.’ No! I know she can throw 22, so why you throwing 19? Throw the 22, stop playing.”

Porter is quite possibly the most humble teenager considering her circumstance and many accolades. Among the many voices within the community behind her, she’s learned quitting is just not an option.

“My mama told me you never know what you could do until you try and do it. My sister pushes me to do everything, so I kind of don’t have a choice to say no,” Porter said.

There’s no doubt she’s leading the way and inspiring everyone who sees her in action.

“At every track meet, I feel like people come up to her and shake her hand. They clap for her. I think when we were at state or maybe the regional after she was done, the entire stands started clapping for her. I think that’s cool to watch that hey, she does have this physical limitation, but she can do just as much as anyone else,” explained Bryant.

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