A trip to Columbus for an event where her expectation was just to have a fun day with a friend turned into an invitation to participate in a national tournament for a Lima teenager.
Sixteen-year-old Devin Wolfe is going to the USA Boccia National Tournament July 26-28 in San Antonio. Boccia is an adapted version of bocce for people with physical disabilities.
In boccia, athletes attempt to land each of six balls closest to a target ball, called the jack.
Wolfe, who was born with spina bifida, was at the Paralympic Experience at Ohio State University in April “just kind of goofing around and having fun” when nationally ranked boccia player Jeremy Finton came up to her and said, “Would you like to try my sport, boccia ball?” Wolfe said.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ ” she said. “The first ball I threw hit the jack. He looked at me and said, ‘You are good. You are recruited.’ And I was like, ‘Is that a good thing?’ ”
It was good enough to get her into her first tournament a few weeks later at the Eandeavor Games in Fort Wayne, where she finished second. Good enough to get her a place on the roster of the Columbus Jack Attack, a boccia team. Good enough to get her to the national tournament.
And good enough to get her and her parents, Jeff and Monika Wolfe, to fly for the first time to get to San Antonio.
“I’m really excited to get out of state. It’s exciting to know I’m finally going to get out of state and that I’m in a national tournament in a sport I’m very passionate about,” Devin Wolfe said.
She has participated in various wheelchair sports since an early age but boccia might be on a level all its own. “Boccia ball has definitely been the thing I’ve been best at,” she said.
“When I was little I started doing abilities T-ball but in my teen years I kind of got disinterested. My best friend, who has the same disability, got me into sled hockey. I also am a wheelchair tennis player but boccia ball has definitely been the thing I’ve been best at.”
Said Monika Wolfe, “It’s all her. When she played sled hockey she couldn’t power the sled so she had a pusher, which was not bad, but this is all her. She is the one maneuvering her chair and she’s the one throwing the ball. That makes it more personal for her than having someone push her around on the ice.”
Boccia, which dates back to the 1970s, has been one of the sports in the Paralympic Games since 1984.
It is played on a court that is 41 feet by 20 feet. In singles competition, each competitor throws or rolls six balls at the target ball during four rounds, called ends.
Those 820 square feet contain Wolfe’s dreams of reaching the Paralympics, which is the equivalent of the Olympics for people with physical disabilities.
Paralympics athletes are placed in different competitive divisions based on the level of their disabilities. Wolfe will be classified before the national tournament.
“Once she gets classified and everything then they’re looking at trying to get her into the Paralympics in 2028 in Los Angeles,” Jeff Wolfe said.
There is a Go Fund Me fund raiser at www.gofundme.com/f/get-devin-to-the-usa-boccia-ball-nationals-2019 still accepting donations for the trip to San Antonio.
Devin Wolfe says she hopes that journey can send a message about athletes with disabilities.
“If I can get the word out about this sport and about opportunities, like boccia ball, for people like me that’s great because I feel like a lot of people, even though it’s 2019, look at disabled people almost like, ‘Oh, you can’t do anything.’ And I feel like when I get on the boccia ball court it’s like, ‘Watch me.’ ”