November 17, 2019
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Wheelchair athlete to start with fellow runners at regional cross-country meet

Courtesy of Glendon Rand
Courtesy of Glendon Rand
Bangor High School's Gordon Doore (7) and Daniel McCarthy (14) and Mt. Ararat's Lisandro Berry-Gaviria (287) take off during the start of the KVAC cross country championship Class A  race in Augusta on Saturday. Mt. Ararat went on to claim the 2019 team championship.

Jonathan Schomaker, a sophomore from Leavitt Area High School in Turner, will be allowed to start Saturday’s Class B South regional cross-country championship race with the other participants while being scored in a separate wheelchair division on a modified course.

“Jon Schomaker will start the race with the other runners, but the layout of the course will give the other runners an opportunity to get out in front as he starts his race. There will also be a marshal on the course to assure his as well as the other competitors’ safety, and his times will be counted in a wheelchair division,” said Mike Burnham, executive director of the MPA’s interscholastic division.

“Our No. 1 concern here has always been the safety of all the athletes, and this accommodation should keep everyone safe,” he said.

The Class B South boys race is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland.

The MPA last week had agreed to allow Schomaker to compete at the regionals on a modified course during a separate race, citing safety concerns of all participants in regard to potential falls or collisions.

Schomaker, who competed in his team’s regular-season cross-country meets this fall as well as at Saturday’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, continued with his family to press to start with the other runners at the regional.

The agreement reached Tuesday provides Schomaker the chance to participate in the regional with his teammates and opens up the opportunity for him to qualify for the state meet as a wheelchair athlete.

Leavitt principal Eben Shaw applauded the accommodation.

“I am very pleased that our close collaboration with the MPA, the family and the race organizers has resulted in such a positive outcome,” he said. “Utilizing a modified course designed to meet the needs of all competitors, our student-athlete will have the opportunity to race in the regional cross country meet with his teammates.

“Ultimately, the hard work of the parties involved has resulted in an outcome that will benefit future wheelchair athletes wishing to participate in the sport of cross-country,” Shaw said.

Burnham said if there are more wheelchair athletes next season, “we’ll certainly have those students racing separately, and everyone is clear on that.”



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