In August, the Howard Community College student and wheelchair racer won gold and bronze medals at the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. He then went on to participate in four major marathons on two continents in 15 days, placing second in Berlin, London and Boston marathons and first in the Bank of America Chicago marathon.
And he still has one more to go: the TCS New York City Marathon in early November.
The youngest of three children, Romanchuk was born with spina bifida. He grew up in Mount Airy and began playing sports around age two with the Baltimore-based Bennett Blazers – a year-round sports and exercise program for children with predominately physical disabilities.
“I pretty much did everything they offered,” Romanchuk said. “Basketball, sled hockey, swimming, track and field, and archery, the list goes on.”
At age 16, he competed in the Baltimore Running Festival and won the men’s wheelchair race. Two years later, he made the 2016 Paralympic team. While he competed in five Paralympic track events, he did not medal. Determined to try again, he set his sights on the 2020 Paralympics and moved to Illinois to train with the University of Illinois’ Wheelchair Athletic Program.
Most days, he and fellow athletes are out on the roads, using their arms and hands to propel racing wheelchairs up to 24 miles an hour.
In his spare time, Romanchuk also wanted to pursue a degree or certificate in computer-aided design (CAD), but his training and travel schedule combined with the COVID-19 pandemic made it tough for him to study on campus.
Howard Community College’s remote learning classes were the perfect fit.
“I chose Howard because was it was really the only college I knew that had a CAD program,” Romanchuk said. “I spoke with Professor (Dave) Hinton, and he was relatively optimistic about being able to complete everything online. So far, it's been going great.”
Romanchuk has completed three semesters at HCC, taking classes online whenever he can.
“With the opportunities that racing has presented, I said, ‘You know what, I can take a few more years to get to my degree.’ Howard's been great with that. I work with the Disability Services Department on accommodations, and they’ve been wonderful, too. It’s been all around great experience.”