Grit and Perseverance
Lily Miller '20

2018 Timothy grad who has cerebral palsy represented the U.S.A. at the Junior World Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland.

Simon hoisted the flag over his left shoulder, the stars and stripes dancing proudly in the wind. He followed the parade of flags, each representing a different country, around the track at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2019 Junior World Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland. He was deeply honored that his teammates had chosen him to represent the United States of America. Years of running, hard work, and even injuries had brought him to this very moment. 

For Simon Detmer, who is a 2018 graduate of Timothy Christian High School and currently a sophomore at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, running has been wrought with challenges and injuries. He suffered a stroke at birth resulting in right-sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that makes it difficult for him to control his muscle movement. Cerebral palsy doesn’t just affect his running. It seeps into his every day life and makes things like eating and homework difficult. 

But Simon comes from a family that loves running. And he never saw cerebral palsy as something that would hinder him from his sport; rather he sees it as an opportunity. “I don’t see it necessarily as a limitation,” Simon explains, “but as an opportunity for me to love and to glorify God through the things I can do and the attitude I have as a person.” 

It’s his positive attitude and his deep desire to do all things for Christ that left his mark on the cross country program at Timothy Christian High School. “I was inspired by and positively influenced by Simon's incredible faith and trust in God's providence,” Timothy Coach Dick Zylstra remembers. 

Running competitively not only takes deep commitment and love, but also grit and perseverance. When most people would’ve given up, Simon persisted. During his first high school season he fractured his right fibula. “I had to take six months off of running,” Simon remembers, “but I never felt like God was telling me to stop running. I began running again in the spring and continued to run all four years of high school.”

Simon continued to battle injury after injury. The biggest challenge for him and his coaches was not necessarily the race itself, but keeping him healthy enough to run. But that training, persistence and natural grit helped him earn a spot on Calvin University’s cross country team. “The setbacks I’ve faced have taught me that if I trust in the Lord, He has far more amazing plans for me than I could ever dream of or imagine,” Simon says. 

Simon ultimately earned a spot on the 2019 U.S.A Paralympic team racing in the 200 meter, 100 meter, long jump, and the 4x100 universal relay. The 4x100 universal relay was Simon’s favorite race. But this was not the typical relay. Each relay team was made up of two girls and two boys. The first athlete in the relay must be legally blind, the second must have an amputation or upper body limb weakness, the third — the position Simon ran — must have cerebral palsy, and the last must be in a wheelchair. Simon’s team placed fourth in this relay. In addition, Simon placed thirteenth in the 200 meter, sixth in the long jump, and fourteenth in the 100 meter.

If I trust in the Lord, He has far more amazing plans for me than I could ever dream of or imagine.

In addition to receiving a spot on the 2019 Paralympic team, he also received the honor of being the first American flag bearer since the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) name change. The USOC changed its name on June 20, 2019 to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). This meant that the United States Olympic Committee now recognized Paralympians as official United States Olympic Athletes and not separate from Olympic athletes who aren’t disabled. It was a huge development in the Paralympic Movement and Simon was given the privilege to represent athletes with disabilities from all around the country. “It was a tremendous blessing to be the first person on the US Track and Field Paralympic Team to carry our country’s flag after the recent name change to the USOPC,” Simon says.

The world class competition spanned over four days. Simon hopes to qualify for the 2020 U.S.A. Paralympic Summer Team for the Tokyo games in late June at the Paralympic Trials and will continue to train year round in order to earn his spot. 

 “Simon is an incredible witness for Timothy Christian and Calvin University,” Coach Zylstra says. “But most importantly, he is a witness for his Lord and Savior.

Do you have an alumni story you’d like to share. Please send it to Jay Evenhouse at For more alumni stories and to stay up-to-date on alumni events and news, please subscribe to the alumni newsletter Timothy Tradition. Also follow Timothy Christian Schools on social media.

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