Gashaw Duhamel began his belated running career on a whim.
Four years later, he’s the first athlete from Tennessee School for the Deaf to earn a Division I scholarship.
Duhamel, who wrapped up his high school career Friday at the state Class A/AA track and field championships in Murfreesboro, signed with Tennessee in May.
It has been quite the journey for Duhamel, 19, who was born in Ethiopia and moved to the United States in 2012.
He was adopted by an Oak Ridge couple just before he started high school.
TSD athletic director Luke Benson said that Duhamel found running by happenstance.
It took just one race to realize how much untapped potential Duhamel had.
“We have a 5K Run for the Deaf every year,” said Benson.
“We told Gashaw to just run in it and enjoy it. He finished third. There were 400 or 500 people running in it.”
That race was a springboard for Gashaw’s high school career, which has seen him wear the jerseys of both TSD and Oak Ridge.
Because TSD doesn’t offer cross country, Gashaw was allowed to compete in the sport for Oak Ridge.
He was a two-time all-state performer for the Wildcats, finishing 10th with a time of 16 minutes, 20 seconds in the Class AAA state cross country meet as a senior.
Duhamel was second Friday in the 3200 meters (9:43.41) behind Catholic’s Johnathan Chavez (9:36.62) at the state Class A-AA track and field championships.
He has also broken several national deaf high school records.
Given Duhamel’s late start in track, Oak Ridge coach Allen Etheridge said he’s just beginning to scratch the surface.
“I would suspect that he hasn’t even touched what potential he has,” said Etheridge.