The Maine Principals’ Association hopes to finalize a proposal soon that would allow a student-athlete from Leavitt Area High School in Turner who uses a wheelchair to participate with his teammates in the upcoming Class B South regional cross-country meet.
MPA and race officials are reviewing results of a test run made Tuesday by Leavitt sophomore Jonathan Schomaker at the Twin Brook Recreation Area course in Cumberland, which will host the South regional meet Oct. 26 as well as the state championships for Classes A, B and C on Nov. 2.
Schomaker’s times at various points of the 3.1-mile course are being compared to anticipated times for runners in the race in order to determine any safety concerns that might arise should the Schomaker and runners come into any territorial conflict at any points along the trail, particularly on one loop where they could meet while heading in opposite directions.
The goal at this point is to enable the 15-year-old Schomaker — who lives with a rare neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia that impacts muscle tone and coordination — to race with his wheelchair as a nonscoring participant with his teammates and runners from other schools in the regional field.
He would participate at states only if Leavitt qualifies as a team.
“We’ve got some proposed maps on how it could work, working with our meet director Mike Griffin,” said MPA Assistant Executive Director Mike Bisson, also the liaison to the association’s cross-country committee.
“He’s trying to plug in where our wheelchair athlete might be versus the pack at different points in time and see if we can avoid an overlapping of the runners, and the wheelchair athlete to see if we can make this work within the race versus having a separate race because I believe that’s the direction there’s been a lot of asking about.”
Bisson said he did not expect to have a proposal ready Wednesday, in part because some course modifications might be needed.
He added that the MPA has not received a formal request for incorporating Schomaker into the existing race from his school, “but that’s what we’re looking at.”
Leavitt principal Eben Shaw was not immediately available for comment.
An initial request to allow Schomaker to participate in the postseason races and score for his team was denied by the MPA’s cross-country, sports medicine and interscholastic management committees, Bisson said.
A subsequent proposal that was approved by the MPA a week ago would have created a separate wheelchair race for cross-country at the regional, similar to what the association already has instituted for several events in its indoor and outdoor track competitions.
Schomaker — who has raced in regular-season cross-country meets with his Leavitt team this fall — and his family have opted to continue pursuing the chance to participate with his teammates at the regional, and they have been supported in that effort by many fellow high school cross-country runners from around the state.
“Now we’re working with the school and meet director to see if there’s a way to incorporate the wheelchair into the race so it alleviates those safety concerns that we have like two-way traffic,” Bisson said. “Between our cross-country committee and certainly our insurance company and the Town of Cumberland, we’ve got to make sure everybody’s OK with our plan if this works, and that the safety concerns are alleviated.
“If we think we can make this work, we would move forward with something like this and make a proposal to the school.”