Schuck's Clipboard

Serendipity strikes for Weston Reyburn

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 15, 2019 12:01 am

At the finish of his family vacation to the West Coast, the first thing Weston Reyburn should have done was buy a lottery ticket.

Too bad he's only 12 years old.

Had he been of legal age to gamble, he might have been in for a big payday. His luck was running that good.

The bookends of the trip -- a visit to Mount St. Helens after flying into Portland, Ore., and meeting an Olympic medalist and getting his autograph on the flight home -- were incredible in their own right. All that happened in between falls into the can-you-believe-that-happened realm.

Reyburn brought more than the memories home to prove it all was real.

A member of the Sheridan Storm swim team, Reyburn received a Christmas gift last winter in which he was going to take part in the USA Swimming national championships at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., as a basket kid.

His mother, Stephanie, had won the opportunity through the Golden Goggles auction, which is the annual fundraiser for the USA Swimming Foundation. It's primary mission is increasing water safety via free and reduced-price swim lessons and the Make a Splash program.

The auction item allowed the recipient to be on the deck at the national championships and carry swimmer's baskets behind the blocks.

However, when Reyburn arrived at the meet, he was offered a different opportunity.

"They told me I was going to be doing awards instead," he said.

That meant handing medals to the presenters before they hung them around the necks of the swimmers on the podium.

"They told me I was going to get to watch the actual swimming if I was to do the awards," said Reyburn. who will be a sixth grader at St. Francis School. "So I took the awards."

It led to a surreal moment sharing the deck with an Olympic champion.

The days prior to that were quite unique in their own right.

The visit to Mount St. Helens was followed by a drive down the Pacific Coast. The St. Louis Cardinals happened to be playing in Oakland at the time, and the Reyburns were able to score tickets to the game. That's where Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt tossed a ball into the stands Reyburn caught.

The 12-year-old swimmer had no idea 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte was going to one-up Goldschmidt.

At the national championships, Reyburn hoped he could get a picture with Lochte, although the workers were told to limit their interaction with the competitors. That sort of eliminated the chance to ask for an autograph.

It didn't keep a female photographer from snapping a shot of the Olympic champion and the Quincy swimmer.

Lochte won the 200-meter individual medley, and Reyburn brought his medal onto the deck.

"When he got off the podium, he went over and put it around my neck," Reyburn said. "As we walked off, the lady said, ‘Can I get a picture with you and him?' So we took a picture together."

A bigger surprise awaited.

"After that, he handed me the box (for the medal) and said it was mine," Reyburn said.

His mother was clueless something so dramatic had happened.

"I'm shaking and thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, he's letting him wear his medal. That's so sweet,'" Stephanie Reyburn said. "It wasn't until the meet was over and they walked him out that I got to see him. I said, ‘You got to wear Lochte's medal.' He says, ‘Yeah, he gave it to me.' And he hands me the box.

"I had no idea. Wow."

There was one more chance meeting to make the vacation complete.

On the flight home, Reyburn had the chance to meet Ryan Held, who swam a leg of the winning 4x100 freestyle relay at the 2016 Olympics. Held is from Springfield, Ill., and graciously signed an autograph for Reyburn.

Still, nothing could top bringing home a gold medal.

"It was really cool and it was very nice," Reyburn said.

It was the kind of moment that leaves you in stunned silence.

"Yeah, goosebumps," Reyburn said. "It was that cool."