By: Steven Moe and Milith Batchu
To the outside observer, Ruichen “Grayson” He is a lot of things.
He is an honors student, Model UN president, former SGA class president, defensive starter on the varsity football team, and a state record-holding discus champion who is nationally ranked in the discipline.
During the 2023 Spring Track & Field season, He broke the all-time 2A state and the 2A championship records. He doesn’t plan to slow down this year either; he’s aiming for the all-time Maryland record, venturing outside the 2A division. He said he also wanted to break some shot put records alongside discus.
He hopes his story serves as inspiration for others: “As Glenelg sees success and talent, we may see a rise in throwers,” He said.
But He is more than a sum of his achievements as he says, “Track and Field is what I do, not what I am”; his identity is as important as any accolade or occupation.
His journey starts as a young child, immigrating to the U.S. from Shanghai, China at the age of 5, quickly finding a place for himself in the local community. He finds a lot of pride in his heritage, making it a priority for him to display and maintain his cultural identity.
Sometimes, He said he feels that his personal identity is overshadowed by his cultural identity; there are those, he said, who expect nothing of him or don’t bother to learn his name due to his ethnicity, reducing him to “that Asian guy”.
He said he remembers times when he faced discrimination on and off the field, and these preconceived notions and microaggressions were prevalent. Offensive ideas such as believing an Asian athlete to be weak-minded and not tough enough to compete due to little to no representation in the various sports programs. However, he said that when it comes to these sports, specifically Track & Field, “it is more of a battle within yourself than it is with others. It involves how you represent yourself and keep your cultural identity strong.”
He believes that there is room in athletics for Asian-Americans to compete and succeed. Asian athletes may be rare, but He has advice for prospective athletes: “Become an influence for others instead of worrying about no one being the influence … be confident in yourself and place emphasis on positive affirmation, as it can help you strive to become a better athlete and even a better person.”
He said he hopes his story and success inspires more student-athletes, especially Asian-Americans, to participate in athletics or other school activities.