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Denny Deady Sportsman of the Year: Clearing hurdles – Roof caps career with medal

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, July 1, 2017
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Denny Deady

Slidell’s Kayson Roof. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

With the blast of the gun, Kayson Roof started churning her legs before bounding over the first hurdle.

In her fourth trip around the Mike Myers Stadium’s orange-tinted track, Roof hit the curve in a dead heat with Ira’s Lexi Hanshew in the Class A 300 hurdles. She felt herself falling behind and a shot at a medal slipping away.

“It’s my last race, I was like ‘what are you doing? Let’s go!'” said Roof, recounting her inner dialogue. “Rounding the curve, I was slowing down and needed to pick it up because I could see that girl passing me. This isn’t how this is going to end.”

The strong Roof, who narrowly escaped death in a violent car accident as a child, underwent numerous surgeries and selflessly dedicated her trips to state to others, displayed immeasurable strength once again. Charging back in the final 100, the Slidell senior captured the silver medal in 48 seconds.

“Crossing the finish line, I was breathing really hard and smiling,” Roof said. “I was trying not to cry. It was pretty crazy. All the thoughts going through my head, ‘oh my gosh this is my last race. I’m never going to do this again in high school.'”

It was the appropriate close for the two-time state medalist, who inspired others with her strength and selflessness.

“She always wanted to be a positive example,” said Cody Vanover, her track coach during her freshman and sophomore year at Slidell. “She was always thankful for the opportunity she got. The way she looked at it is everyone has got stuff to deal with, why not be thankful for your God-given ability.”

The tireless and selfless four-time state track qualifier and basketball player is this year’s Denny Deady Sportsman of the Year.

“People have always told me that [I was selfless],” Roof said. “Everyone else when I got in that car accident donated money and helped. I thought I might as well be for other people rather than myself.”

The accident from when she was 6 is never far from Roof’s mind.

“The scars on my face don’t let me forget it,” Roof said.

“I think about what my life would be if it didn’t happen. I think everything that has happened has happened because of it. It’s what’s made me the way I am.”

Roof was a passenger in a car her stepfather was driving on U.S. 82 between Nocona and Saint Jo. Over a hill in front of their pickup was a truck pulling a flatbed trailer loaded with pipe. The pickup hit the trailer, sending a pole through the window and into Roof’s face.

The impact broke all the bones in Roof’s face. Clinging to life, she was flown to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

Over 12 hours, surgeons reconstructed her face and saved her life.

She miraculously escaped the accident with no lasting brain trauma and only the scars that she knows draws stares from others.

“I get a lot of staring when I’m out. I see little kids staring, ‘like oh my God? What’s wrong with her?'” Roof said. “If people ask, I’ll tell them about it. Other than that I don’t talk about it openly.”

She talked with Vanover about the accident and its impact on her.

“She said, ‘I’m not going to let it get the best of me,'” Vanover said. “There’s no bitterness. She would have the right to be bitter, but she’s not. She’s just a sweet, caring person.”

It’s something that stood out to teammates on the basketball court, track or cross country course.

“She’s fun to be around. She’s always putting the team first, whether it’s staying longer at practice or encouraging others,” said Slidell sophomore Bailey Meyer.

“I don’t know any other person that’s been in an accident like that. Most people wouldn’t be as active or confident to live in their own skin. It doesn’t stop her at all.”

Roof didn’t start athletics until her sixth-grade year at the suggestion of her PE teachers.

“My teachers are the ones that said you’re so good at PE that you should go into athletics,” Roof said. “I’d never really done sports before. I started playing basketball and doing sports and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I love this.'”

On the basketball court, she tirelessly crashed the boards to the frustration of opponents. As a senior, she helped the Lady Greyhounds to the region final.

“She’s the kind of player you want to have as a coach,” said Slidell coach Lance Shelton. “She did all the dirty work. In the region final against Dodd City, their coach kept telling his players they had to block her out and that she was outhustling all of them.”

Roof ran cross country and played basketball, but on the track is where she shined.

She qualified for state in track as a freshman in the 300 hurdles and pole vault. She repeated the achievement her sophomore year, earning a silver medal in the hurdles.

Roof took fifth in the hurdles as a junior but did not pole vault.

As a senior, she took back up the pole vault along with adding the 100-meter dash to her workload.

Roof won the Class A Region III title in the pole vault, took second in the 300 hurdles and finished third in the 100.

Roof had dedicated trips to state her sophomore and junior years to grandparents that had died during the school year. Her senior year, she dedicated to Slidell coach Dennis Stroud, who died in September.

“I dedicated it to him because he’s been a special person in my life and he did so much for me,” Roof said.

Leading up to the state meet, her story was shared online with people from across the county sending her well-wishes.

“One lady we don’t even know posted ‘she has fans she doesn’t even know,'” Roof recalled.

After missing out on a medal in the pole vault in her last trip to state, Roof poured all of her energy into the 300 hurdles race and came away with another medal to add to her collection.

“I have all my medals up on the wall. So every time my family or friends walk into my room, they are like oh my gosh you have so many medals,” said Roof, who has a state UIL academic medal in addition to her many track medals.

Roof will run next year at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, hoping to continue to inspire others.

“This is what happened and I came back and did all this stuff,” Roof said. “So, anything that happens to you, you can do it also.”

The recent high school graduate also pointed out that her accident wasn’t the only motivation to becoming who she is today. She also credited the many people around here.

“Whenever you interviewed me my freshman year and we did that big story, I told you coming back from the wreck made me stronger,” Roof said. “That did make me stronger. But being around all the people at Slidell and seeing how much they work and how much people there in the past worked, made me want to work hard and be stronger and make sure my name was known at Slidell.”

DENNY DEADY SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

Denny Deady is not only a beloved member of the Messenger family, but also respected and held in high regard across Wise County.

Denny Deady

Her generous spirit, kind heart and sincere interest in people were the basis for her successful newspaper career and remarkable community involvement.

“To say that a person is the ‘heart and soul’ of an organization may seem trite, but without a doubt, for the Wise County Messenger, that honor goes to Denny Deady, who was a part of the staff for more than 30 years,” said publisher Roy Eaton.

Deady, who retired in the fall of 2010 after 33 years with the Messenger, held various positions and played an integral role in making the paper a community cornerstone. She started as a staff reporter, also covering sports, and was eventually named sports editor. She later moved to the ad department, where she served as manager, and she retired as the Messenger’s special projects manager.

“Denny was a great writer and covered many of the newspaper’s biggest stories during her career,” Eaton said. “But to just stop there would not do her justice. Her generosity with her time and talents is legendary.”

Her community involvement was widespread, and as a breast cancer survivor, many of her activities centered on women’s health issues. Her baking, especially her sweet rolls, is legendary, and she has donated dozens to community fundraisers. At one event car dealers James Wood and Karl Klement got in a bidding war for them, and when the hammer fell, the rolls had sold for $4,000 with all the money going to charity.

Denny and her husband, Brian, a retired teacher and football coach, now live in Magnolia to be near their daughter and son-in-law, Guinness and Brent Collins, and grandsons Eoghan and Finn.

The Messenger now annually honors an athlete from Wise County that best exemplifies the same traits as the Denny Deady Sportsman of the Year.

PAST RECIPIENTS

2014: Marshall Anderle, Chico

2015: Caitlin Pruett, Slidell

2016: Dylana Hutchins, Decatur

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