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High school track athlete inspires, as he stymies stereotypes: “He doesn’t have legs, but he has heart”

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MILWAUKEE -- For each athlete, the definition of success is subjective. It can be based on championships, improvement and even inspiration. A high school athlete is finding success in all of those areas and more.

"He's got high expectations. He sets his goals and hopefully he gets them. If he doesn't, he'll try harder next time," Joe Schubert, father of Joe Schubert the wheelchair athlete said.

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

It is safe to say there's no quit in Joe Schubert.

The Marquette University High School junior is always trying to improve and his dad always tries to have a front row seat.

"There's no greater feeling. He's very serious in this track stuff. He's serious in school. He's serious in track. He's serious in relationships. He's a serious guy. He's in it," Joe Schubert (dad) said.

"He's got this fire of wanting to win and the desire to be the best that he can be," Dan Cleary, Schubert's coach said.

At the Greater Metro Conference track meet, Schubert moved his expectations further along in his first event of the day -- the shot put. He set a personal record.

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

"I compete in wheelchair shot put -- 100, 400 and the 800," Schubert said. "It really is a satisfying feeling, especially because I've been training for it and really have been working hard to get better, better and better."

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

"He expects it every time he goes out there. So I'm just saying it's par for the course. Hopefully he'll keep doing that. Every time he competes, he looks for a personal best. I think all track athletes look for that," Joe Schubert (dad) said.

In  most ways, Joe Schubert is like all track athletes, but he is unique in one way.

"He doesn't have legs, but he has heart," Joe Schubert (dad) said.

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

Schubert is the school's first wheelchair athlete which has had an impact on his family, team and coach.

"He's helped us be more at ease and more comfortable. You just, we got to know Joe as Joe. As opposed to 'isn't that the guy in the wheelchair, the wheelchair athlete.' He's Joe the track athlete. Joe the student. Just a great all around kid," Cleary said.

"It can be whittled down to Spina bifida. He had a spine defect, or a defect in his back when he was born," Joe Schubert (dad) said.

But it hasn't kept him from doing the things he loves.

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

He has played wheelchair basketball since fourth grade, and is part of a team that was ranked in the top 10 in the nation. He is also working towards his second-straight title in only his third year of track.

"It would really be momentous for me. I mean, it's something that I've always worked for, since sophomore year. I really focused on 'hey, I'm going to do this and I'm going to get it done,'" Schubert said.

But in almost all of the competitions leading up to the state meet, he'll compete alone -- but it's not a lonely feeling.

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

"I got coaches and the spectators and my fellow athletes who are always cheering me on. And that also helps fuel my fire to get better if you will," Schubert said.

"I think that's one thing that's neat about Joe though is he doesn't necessarily need somebody right next to him to try as hard and give his best in whatever event that he's in," Cleary said.

By accomplishing so much athletically, Schubert's role as a champion isn't limited to the track or the court.

"Joe is really a role model for us in terms of what he can do and what he does do. And I think that inspires us to be better people and better coaches," Cleary said.

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert

Joe Schubert is hoping to inspire in his future as a teacher.

"Probably either math or history," Schubert said.

Right now, he's the one making history.

"That means everything to me. It really, really gives me a satisfying feeling knowing that I can be the guy that people say 'hey, 40 years ago this was the guy who still holds school records and hopefully state records' in the future. If I can have that, that legacy, if you will, that would feel really, really good for me," Schubert said.