Ryder Schalich, 16, a sophomore at Piner High School, throws shot-put and discus for the track team as well is a Special Olympian. (Photo by CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)


For Ryder Schalich, there is no such thing as an easy day.

Schalich suffers from tuberous sclerosis (TS), a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in different organs of the body.

But the Piner High sophomore, 16, isn’t one to let TS interfere with a full life. Schalich competes on multiple Special Olympics teams, on a local Challenger Little League team and as a shot put and discus thrower on Piner’s track team.

His favorite? “I gotta say shot,” Schalich said.

Schalich’s coach, Luis Rosales, praised Schalich’s work ethic. “He really puts in the effort,” Rosales said. “One thing I tell the kids is I don’t care how fast or how far you throw, but you have to give me the effort. Ryder takes that to heart.”

Schalich’s illness does present challenges. Seizures can grip his body at any time, and he has a hand signal system set up with his teachers to let them know if he can feel one coming on.

“The seizure is torture when it comes, I just want it to come out of me,” Schalich said.

He’s already endured a number of surgeries, including one to remove a brain tumor when he was 8. During Piner’s spring break, he spent time getting tested for an experimental surgery aimed at stopping his seizures.

“The seizures are a big problem in our life,” said Schalich’s mom, Cindy Schalich. “They’re not easy to live with, but he perseveres through them.”

Despite the constant background of medical treatment, Schalich competes on four different Special Olympics teams, including basketball, bowling, softball and bocce ball. His bowling team has won gold three years in a row, and he has also won medals in all three other sports.

His Special Olympics basketball coach has inspired him. “My basketball coach is really fun,” Schalich said. “She teaches me the rules of basketball before we start practice and (then) we get pumped up.”

Baseball is another love, and he’s competed on a Challenger Little League team for 10 years.

“Challenger Little League is for kids that have disabilities and need help, so they can feel comfortable doing baseball,” Schalich said.

Schalich also finds time to participate in a special needs hip-hop class at Studio Gray, where he is preparing for a summer performance.

His favorite class at Piner is culinary arts, but his dream job is to become a multimedia designer.

“I want to do media arts, and become a computer animation person,” Schalich said. He’s looking into a program at Santa Rosa Junior College called “College to Careers,” which provides career training for people with disabilities.

Aside from his plethora of activities, Schalich is perhaps better known for his sense of humor and kind spirit. When his sister injured her foot during her own track season at Biola University this year,

Schalich texted her every day to encourage her and get updates.

“The kids really respect him,” Rosales said. “He’s so eager, and very coachable.”

Schalich wants to encourage other kids who have disabilities.

“Things happen, but be brave,” Schalich said. “Be strong and stay focused.”

You can reach Staff Writer Melody Karpinski at 521-5205 or melody.karpinski@pressdemocrat.com.