UNION, NJ – Union has a new claim to fame: Home to the “Fastest kid in the Country 2018”.
The title was earned by Nicholas DaPonte after he competed in the Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals in Fort Wayne, Indiana last month. DaPonte, 10, was named “Fastest kid in the country 2018” in his division.
At Nationals, DaPonte won first place in eight swimming events. In the 50-meter backstroke and the 25-yard freestyle, he also broke National records. When asked if swimming was his favorite sport, DaPonte said, “sled hockey is my favorite sport. But I swim a lot in the pool in our back yard.”
DaPonte, who will be attending Jefferson School in September, also placed first in four track events: the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter race. His team, “The Lightning Wheels” placed first and second in two track relays.
DaPonte was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly during development, but it never slowed him down. When he was a baby, “he was very active, always wanting to climb on the couches and stairs,” said his mother, Anna. “And we let him.”
Although DaPonte is 10, he fell into the U14 age group (because of the birthday cutoff) making him the youngest athlete in the group. About being in the competition, DaPonte said, “I like cheering on my friends. I’m not the biggest cheerleader on the team, but I try to be. I get to race too and it’s fun”
Ten members from DaPonte’s “Lightning Wheels” team participated at Nationals, the smallest in the Large Team Division (with 9-30 team members).
In the 2016 Nationals, DaPonte competed in six swimming heats and achieved a personal best in four solo heats and placed first in all six events. He was also in seven track events, where he placed first in all five solos and the one relay.
“Last year (2017) was rough for me,” said DaPonte. “I didn’t do so well at Nationals. But I came back this year and won.”
“We are so proud of Nicholas,” said his mother. “When he first started in sports, we’d have to push him a little. Now, he’s the first one out the door. Last year was hard on him, but it lit a fire under him. He learned a valuable lesson. He trained harder and pushed harder. I’m so proud of him for that.”
DaPonte’s real passion is sled hockey. He plays with the ‘The Woodbridge Warriors’. “I like the speed I can get with sled hockey,” said DaPonte. “I like to move fast. And I like to play with my friends.” DaPonte hopes to attend the Paralympics games someday. He credits his success to his parents. “I wouldn’t be doing so well if it wasn’t for my mom and dad.”