Eight wheelchair championship final events will be contested on the state high school level, beginning with the 2013 OHSAA State Track and Field Championships.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors approved a recommendation to add eight wheelchair championship final events — four for boys and four for girls — to the OHSAA State Track and Field Tournament beginning in 2013.
Wheelchair athletes in one boys and one girls division will compete in the 100, 400 and 800 meters and shot put, with participants wearing school uniforms and receiving awards for individual honors, although they will not score points for their teams.
Track and field is the first sport in which the OHSAA will include wheelchair athletes as part of a state tournament, and makes Ohio one of approximately a dozen states to do so.
“This is something we have talked about for some time now, and I’m thrilled that our board of directors has taken the formal step to make this a reality,” OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross said in a release. “The executive committee of the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches has worked diligently to finalize the details and establish the parameters, and we are excited that the OHSAA will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on this group of outstanding student-athletes and create lifetime memories for the participants along with their families, schools and communities.”
During the regular season, all fully-automated timing qualifying wheelchair times in the 100, 400 and 800 and wheelchair distances in the shot put will be collected by the OATCCC, with the top eight male and top eight female times or distances in each event qualifying for championship final events at the state tournament without regard to the OHSAA divisional assignment of the participants’ schools.
“This will pique the interests of some people,” said GlenOak track coach Scott Ferrell, who also is a swimming official. “This is a nice opportunity for those kids. Based off what I’ve seen at swimming meets, there would be enough support for these kind of events.”
It also gives wheelchair-bound athletes a chance to be a part of a team, and those without handicaps to get to know the difficulties of others.
“It makes everyone that much more understanding of everyone else around them, and it makes them more empathetic of the real world,” Ferrell said. “It is great to have kids exposed to that kind of thing.”
To qualify for the wheelchair events, athletes must have a permanent, physical disability and must be verified by a licensed physician. Participants must also meet all OHSAA and school eligibility requirements.
While participating, coaches may not assist athletes in the track events, and no motorized chairs are permitted. Athletes in the shot put may be assisted by coaches in getting to the competition area and entering and leaving the circle. The coach also may hold down the chair during the throwing attempt to prevent excessive movement.
Page 2 of 2 - “The impact on the young athletes with physical disabilities participating in this championship will be incredible,” United States Olympic Committee Chief of Paralympics Charlie Huebner said in a release. “They will be representing their schools and communities in ways that have never been seen in Ohio.”