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Blind RHS Athlete Wrestles, Shoots Free Throws
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Bruin wrestler Jayden Heilman tries for a pin at last Saturday’s JV tournament at Gregori High School in Modesto. The blind athlete competes in the sport by never losing contact with his opponent during the match. He was among a team of young Bruins who participated in the meet, which also included separate matches for girls teams. Ric McGinnis/The News

The crowd at the Riverbank High School varsity girls basketball home game on Thursday, Jan. 16, got to witness a special moment in the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium that night.

Although the girls suffered a tough 66-21 loss in front of the home fans, what happened after the game itself was over provided some uplifting moments for those who remained in the gym.

As some of the crowd and players began to leave the building after the final buzzer, attention soon turned to action at the south end basketball hoop.

Varsity boys basketball coach Jeff Jennings was helping an RHS player try his hand at sinking a free throw.

It only took a few missed shots for the crowd to notice and turn their attention to what was happening.

Jayden Heilman was shooting over and over again, trying to find the range. Jayden is blind, and coach Jennings was helping by tapping a cane on the front edge of the rim of the basket.

It took Jayden about 10 tries but he finally sank one, and the crowd of those watching, including members of the visiting Hughson Lady Huskies basketball team, erupted in applause and cheers.

It provided an uplifting end to the evening.

Meanwhile, Jayden also had a busy weekend, as he took to the wrestling mats for the JV Bruins at a junior varsity tournament hosted at Gregori High School in Modesto on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Facing competitors from high school teams from all over the central part of the state, the Bruin athletes fought hard but came up pretty short in their matches. The RHS wrestlers attending included Jayden at 138 pounds, as well as Christian Nash at 115 pounds, Abel Bravo at 132, and Aiden Gonzalez at 145 pounds.

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Riverbank’s Jayden Heilman, at the free throw line, sends off the basketball to sink the shot. Varsity Basketball Coach Jeff Jennings helped the blind RHS student zero in on the basket by tapping his cane on the front of the rim. It only took about 10 tries to make it, causing the crowd in the gym to break out in cheers and applause. Ric McGinnis/The News