Each January, we feature the movers and shakers of the city in in-depth, in-person interviews that dig into their backgrounds, their plans, and what ties them to the capital city. While our interview issue subjects are all Columbus-based, their stories are universal. So settle in, cozy up, and give yourself some you-time. You’ll want to read every word.
As a senior and the captain of the crew team at Upper Arlington High School in 2009, Blake Haxton was making plans for the future. Then came a moment he couldn’t have planned for. In March, he developed a cramp in his leg that quickly turned far more severe; Haxton had contracted the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis. Within days, the illness led to organ failure, and Haxton was in danger of losing his life. To save him, doctors made the decision to amputate both of his legs. Ultimately, it took more than 20 surgeries and three months in the hospital before Haxton returned home.
Haxton shared his worries during his long
recovery. “I remember being in the ICU still. [...] I
was starting to project forward, ‘well, what’s life
going to be like now?’” He worried about what he
would be able to do, and what he would miss.
Although many of his hospital visitors encouraged him to try para-rowing, he was reluctant. “I knew what the process would be; I just had no desire to do it,” he said. His resistance to rowing stayed with him
when he was discharged, and throughout his
undergraduate years as a Finance major at
His attitude began to change as he prepared
to start law school. “I really haven’t been that
active for four years. I need to be an adult and
figure out, you know, just a way to work out and
train and be healthy,” he said. So he returned to
the ergometer—known as “the erg”—an indoor
rowing machine. Still, it wasn’t what he was
used to, and he didn’t enjoy it at first. “It felt so
abbreviated and cramped,” he said.
It took a shift in his mindset to change
his relationship with the erg. Haxton began
thinking of para-rowing as “an entirely
different sport” from what he’d done at Upper
When he let go of those expectations,
Haxton discovered that he was good. Really
“They publish time standards on the ergs...
and if you’re under this time, you can try out
for the national team; if you’re under this time,
you can probably make it. [...] Well I got under
those times for my event.”
Haxton signed up for a competition called
the Indoor World Championships, where
rowers competed on ergs in the same room,
pulling as fast as they could.
Then the U.S. National Team approached
him about trying out. “That’s what got me back
in the boat,” Haxton said. He calls returning
to the water “one of the best decisions I ever
In 2016, Haxton qualified for the
Paralympic Games in Rio. He said that life in
the Olympic Village isn’t as glamorous as it
might look from the outside. “You’re pretty
isolated,” he explained. Getting sick would be
detrimental in races where tenths-of-seconds
matter, so athletes keep to themselves and try
to stay focused. “You don’t really get out of
that loop of just training, sleep, compete. And
you don’t really want to,” Haxton said. He
ultimately placed fourth, “which was about as
good as I could have done.”
Now 28 years old, Haxton is in his prime
years by rowing standards (male rowers are
generally considered to peak between ages
28-32). He finished seventh in the 2019 World
Championships, qualifying the U.S. Men’s
team for a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Under the rules of U.S. Men’s Rowing,
however, there’s still an individual qualifying
race to determine who will compete. Haxton is
spending his winter training for the race—and
what he hopes will be his second Paralympics—
with weights and on the erg. When the weather
warms, he’ll return to practicing in the boat.
In addition to rowing, Haxton works full-
time as an Investment Research Associate
at Diamond Hill Capital Management. “We
divide up the market of publicly traded
stocks by industry,” he explained, investing in
opportunities that may have been overlooked
or undervalued elsewhere. Haxton specializes
in airlines and oil and gas, and calls the work “a
ton of fun.”
Unsurprisingly, Haxton is a busy man.
With a twice-a-day, six-day-per-week training
regime on top of his job, his schedule doesn’t
leave him with much wiggle room or social
time. “There’s some wedding invitations you
have to turn down,” he said.
On the other hand, Haxton is thrilled
with how he gets to spend his days. “A lot of
people don’t get to say they like any job they
have. I have two jobs I really like—rowing and
investing—and I get to do both of them every
day. What could be better than that?”
Even so, he becomes introspective when
asked about the moment he knew that his path,
as an athlete and businessman, was the right
one for him to follow. “I’m not really sure it is,”
he said. “I couldn’t answer honestly saying,
like, I think that ‘Blake Haxton’s purpose on
this planet is rowing or investing.’ I don’t know
the answer to that question. And I do think we
all have a purpose... and I think that the talents
we all have are hints about what that purpose
Haxton, someone who has been through—
and accomplished—so much in his 28 years,
expresses tremendous gratitude for the way
he gets to spend his life. He’s grateful for his
friends who have made his path as an athlete
possible. “I can’t carry my boat on my own,
can’t do a lot of travel on my own,” he said.
“There’s a really core group that’s around that
enables me to do all these things.”
Haxton has a true village of friends in
Columbus and across the country who are
intrinsic pieces in the puzzle of his athletic
success. Members of his village will wake at
5 a.m. to join him on the water and help him
practice. They will use their vacation time to
drive him to competitions in other states. And
not only will they do so without complaint,
they share his excitement. “There’s not one
trip [...] where we don’t look at each other and
be like, “‘man, how cool is this!’” Haxton said.
His positive attitude and his self-
described “stubborn” dedication as an athlete
were undoubtedly behind his U.S. Rowing
teammates voting him the 2016 Male Athlete
of the Year. Haxton is the first para-athlete to
receive the award, and he’s humbled by it. “It’s
the greatest honor I’ve ever gotten by a long
measure,” he said.
Even in the hardest times, Haxton has
learned to be “willfully grateful.” He points to
that moment when he was still in the ICU, as
he wondered what the future would hold for
him as a double amputee. His fears and worries
began to snowball as it sunk in that his life was
And then he looked up and saw his mom
sitting in the corner of the room. The moment
was a revelation.
“I realized how true it was, that as bad as
this is, it would be so much worse if my mom
wasn’t here,” he said. “In that moment, it was
like the snowball stopped rolling.” He began to
think of the other visitors coming that day—his
dad, grandpa, and brother. “I sort of found that
it can snowball the other way,” he said. “I was
surprised by how powerful that was.”
Haxton knows firsthand that life comes with real difficulties. He says the hard moments need to be confronted, not “swept under the rug.” Still, he focuses on the people around him and the support they provide him as an athlete, colleague, and friend. “When you get to go through life with teammates like that,” he says with a smile, “it’s pretty good.”
Restaurant Week Columbus, January 20-25 presented by (614) Magazine and Revolution Mortgage, is finally here!
Eat614.com has been poppin' lately with hungry people around the city researching specialty-priced, 3-course menus from over 200 participating restaurants. We know it can be hard to make a decision, so hopefully this list of the four most-viewed Restaurant Week menus can be your compass.
Happy eating, Columbus!
#4 Eddie Merlot's 1570 Polaris Pkwy., Columbus $40 per diner
Eddie Merlot's efforts to provide the finest personal service, highest quality foods, and freshest ingredients does not go unnoticed by the Columbus community. Coming in as the #4 most-read Restaurant Week menu so far, the prime-aged beef and seafood restaurant offers king crab bisque, filet mignon, salmon, ribeye, yellowfin tuna, crème brûlée, and triple layer chocolate cake among other options as part of its specially-priced 3-course menu this week.
Tucked away on a brick street in German Village, Lindey's has long been one of the city's most beloved restaurants. Tempura Shishito peppers, bison and chipotle chili, marinated shrimp skewer, salmon, filet, lamb bolognese, pumpkin waffle, maple bourbon semifredo, and more will be offered on Lindey's diverse Restaurant Week menu.
#2 Del Mar SoCal Kitchen 705 N High St., Columbus $40 per diner
Recently named one of America's best restaurants by online reservation company OpenTable.com, Del Mar has been receiving a lot of buzz lately, and Restaurant Week is no exception. This new concept from Cameron Mitchell stays true to its Cali-inspired fare during RW with plenty of options from the sea like lobster bisque and faroe island salmon. Brick chicken, beef tenderloin, Hawaiian shave ice, and chocolate valrhona brownie are also among the mix.
#1 Cooper's HawkWinery & Restaurant 4230 The Strand, Columbus $35 per diner
Out of more than 200 participating restaurants, the menu for Cooper's Hawk has been the most popular on eat614.com so far. While the award-winning wines could be bringing people in, it's certainly the wildly diverse, chef-driven menu Cooper's Hawk's is offering during Restaurant Week that keeps people hanging around. Asia ahi tuna sashimi, jambalaya, crispy Asian pork, gnocchi carbonara, s'more budino, and Cooper's Hawk chocolate cake are just some of the scrumptious items on the three-course menu.