EUGENE, Ore. — Growing, there are kids who are good at every subject in school or some who can sing any note, and then there are the ones who can play any sport.
Akayla Devereaux is one of those multi-tasking athletes and was recently inspired to add a less conventional competition to her resume.
Akayla doesn’t just play multiple sports, she excels in them.
This 17-year-old is actually competing in the state track and field championships at Hayward Field this week, but it’s not just her talent, but her heart and a unique inspiration that motivates her in the ring.
On this particular spring Wednesday she has double-header softball games.
Right before this, she squeezed in a track practice–two sports she rotates in with the other three she plays at Lowell High School.
“I can’t multi-task. Obviously my daughter can,” said Jack Devereaux, Akayla’s dad.
Jack coaches the Red Devils, and after the games he drives both of them into Eugene for Akayla’s favorite work out of them all–boxing.
“She’ll come from a softball practice, or a track meet, come right to the gym, and outwork everybody at the gym,” said Coach Jake Wilson.
“Kid works so hard you have to tell her to stop on her days off. It’s incredible,” said Coach Ryan Hariss.
Her coaches Ryan Hariss and pro-boxer Jake Wilson, met Akayla through her older brother Garrett, who was the first fighter in the family, working toward a professional career in mixed martial arts.
“Garrett and I were friends. We trained together and stuff like that, and then later Jack told me his daughter was a boxer,” Wlson said.
“My brother Garrett really wanted me to fight, but I was always really busy,” Akayla said.
Akayla found time to take up the sport, but more as a hobby until one day this past February when Garrett’s influence became more important than ever.
“He passed away February 2nd. And after Garrett’s passing, Akayla decided to take it a step further,” Wilson said.
“He was like my best friend. He loved fighting,” Akayla said.
At the memorial, Wilson reconnected with the Devereauxs. And while reflecting on their memories of Garrett, they discussed a future with Akayla.
“When he told me his daughter boxed, I told him she could come over and train with me for free,” Wilson said.
Wilson says it didn’t take long for him to realize the kind athlete Akayla could be.
“I worked with her one time and I realized she just had a ton of potential. She was just an amazing athlete, really dedicated from the start. I could just see it in her eyes that she was the type of person who really wanted to be successful at this,” Wilson said.
Akayla surprised her coaches, parents–even herself.
“It was just very different for me, playing all these different sports and then this one came into my life and it was just the best thing ever,” Akayla said.
“It came really quick. I mean, within a month she had improved more than people improve in six months,” Wilson said.
‘She’s able to grab skills I can teach her in one day and apply them in live combat sparring that day. It’s incredible,” Hariss said.
They all got their first taste of those skills in Akayla’s first fight just a couple weeks ago.
“She went out there and she was so dominant, so aggressive,” Hariss said.
“I don’t think her opponent was ready for someone of her caliber to be honest, so it ended pretty quick,” said Wilson said.
But as fast as that fight ended, Akayla’s career took flight. Her talent the runway–Garret’s memory: her wings.
“I just know that he’d want me to do this. I know that it means a lot that I’m out fighting for him, because he’s the reason why I fight,” Akayla said.
“It inspires her. It pushes her, she an amazing athlete even more because of it and I think it pushes her further every day,” Hariss said.
“I feel like she’s dedicated to the sport, and it gives her a little extra drive. I can see it in her eyes that she has something to prove, and I think it’s really important for her to be successful at the sport, and I think she feels she’s doing garrett proud. I really do,” Wilson said.
“When I’m here, I just feel that he’s around again, and I’m so upset that I lost him, that we lost him. But I just know that he’d want me to do this and that he’s always around and that he’s proud of me,” Akayla said.
Akayla’s hope is to one day box in the Olympics, which her Coach Jake Wilson believes is entirely possible once she gets more practice in the ring. Akayla also plans to join the wrestling team at Lowell next year to diversify her training.