Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Clearing Hurdles

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Clearing Hurdles

Article excerpt

LODI -- Fernando Almonte is one of those athletes who makes everything look easy.

On the football field, the Lodi junior accelerates into a gear most of his opponents have never even considered.

On the track, he treats hurdles like speed bumps and the only thing that appears to slow him down is the finish line.

But one thing that most people take for granted makes Almonte, 17, stop and pause.

Almonte and his twin brother, Eloy, were born with dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder.

"It is very hard for me to read, but they help me a lot here," said Fernando. "If we have a book to read in class, the teacher will give it to me on tape and I will listen to it and from that, I can tell the teachers what happened."

Pat Tirico, Fernando's track and football coach, said that he doesn't talk to Fernando about his disability. He said Fernando doesn't use it as an excuse. It's just another hurdle to clear.

"He has a great attitude, the teachers all love him here," said Tirico. "He's not just a kid skating by. He is in there working. He gives it his best effort."

The Almontes moved from Michigan when Fernando was in fifth grade. Things were different in Michigan (dirt roads, wildlife) and Lodi was a bit of a culture shock with its crowded streets and highways.

"It took awhile to get adjusted," said Fernando. "I was very shy. I still am shy."

To fit in, Fernando decided to go out for sports. The first thing he tried was football.

"My first practice, I didn't know anything and I had my thigh pads where my knee pads go," said Fernando. "I had them switched. Everybody thought I wouldn't be a good athlete, but I ended up being one of the best on the team."

Football led to track and now Fernando is one of the most versatile athletes at Lodi.

"We are just throwing him into spots," said Tirico. "The hurdles are probably his best event, and he can throw the javelin, too."

A teacher in Michigan first discovered his dyslexia. Fernando would stay after school to work on his reading, before he was finally tested. …

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