Malvern Prep sophomore Jaxson Hoey finished his track season last month as a state champion, winning the 800 meter run at the Pennsylvania Independent State School Championships with a mark of 1:55:21.

Hoey also ran on Malvern's state championship 4x400 relay team, consisting of junior Elijah King, Hoey, senior Casey Breuer and senior Dan Ferraillo, which posted a time of 3:25.26. That relay win made the Friars the overall state meet winners.

But for Hoey, winning the state title in the 800 meter run and in the 4x400 relay paled in comparison to the challenge that he lives with every day. Hoey stutters. Hoey, his parents Fran and Leslee, and Malvern Prep track head coach Mike Koenig do not regard Jaxson's stuttering as a disability or a handicap, but rather a challenge and an inconvenience. His parents believe everything happens for a reason.

"God doesn't make mistakes,' said Fran Hoey.

Leslee Hoey said, "we believe it has been a blessing because the determination that Jaxson has had to go through to even get through a sentence has carried over into his running. It takes a lot of determination when your legs get tired to keep going. It {his stuttering} helped his running because he developed that determination to keep persevering.'

Koenig added, "if you heard Jaxson sing, you would never guess in a million years that he stutters. He sang in the Easter choir {this spring} and he sounded great ... When we talk one-on-one about college football, Jaxson doesn't stutter.'

"In middle school, a lot of the kids made fun of me,' said Jaxson. "I had very few friends back then.'


Occasionally, he'd go home and tell his parents about his bad days at school.

Fran remembered: "What we tried to do was raise his awareness that if somebody is trying to make fun of you for something that you struggle with, whether it be height, weight, speech whatever it is, that says more about the person making fun of you than it does about you. They don't feel good enough about themselves to accept you so they need to make fun of you to make themselves look better.'

Jaxson said, "I don't get ridicule now. In high school people are more mature. ... I don't try to hide it like I used to. Now I'll raise my hand in class more and I'll speak more.'

Fortunately for Jaxson, his parents are friends with Ardmore's Mike McKeeman, the winner of the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon. McKeeman also stutters.

"I got to know Mr. McKeeman,' said Jaxson. "He made me realize I wasn't alone in my fight. I also saw how good a runner he was. It was encouraging to have someone [like McKeeman] to talk to.'

According to Koenig, Jaxson commands respect from the team.

"It's not just because he's a good runner,' said the coach. "Jaxson is a nice guy, passionate about what he does, he cares about his teammates. ... He's even friendly to people on the other teams.'

The coach added that no one on the team views Hoey as disabled.

Jaxson, who is also training for cross country this fall, is always working on improving his speech and sees a speech therapist.

Fran said, "Sometimes if [he] gets stuck on a t, instead of saying ' t-t-t-morrow,' [he will] say ' tooo-morrow.''