Southeast's Jenna Fesemyer was in Columbus, listening to an announcement that not only impacted her, but thousands of other athletes around the state.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors approved a recommendation to add eight wheelchair championship final events - four boys and four girls - to the OHSAA State Track and Field Meet beginning in 2013 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on The Ohio State University campus.
Wheelchair athletes in one boys division and one girls division will compete in the 100-meter dash, 400, 800 and shot put. Each participant will wear their respective school uniform and be awarded medals, but they will not count toward the team scores.
All FAT (fully automatic time) qualifying during the regular season in the 100, 400 and 800 and shot put distances will be collected by the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches. The top eight boys and girls in each event advance to state.
Fesemyer, a freshman who walks with a prosthesis on her leg that hooks into the bottom of her thigh to allow her to walk, currently competes in adapted golf and track.
Ohio is one of about a dozen states in the United States to make wheelchair competition available.
"This is about no man left behind," Fesemyer said. "This is the chance for us to compete and be inspired. I am very excited to watch this happen."
Howland track and field coach Sean Borawiec, who is a special education teacher at Howland High School, said this move by the OHSAA was the right one.
These events are for physically and visually impaired athletes. Special Olympics currently run events for mentally impaired athletes.
"It's different, but it's not," Borawiec said. "It provides an opportunity for a special needs kid to compete. I think it's important.
"I think it's a good thing when you can provide an opportunity for any special needs kid to compete in a venue down there at Ohio State. I'm sure it will be handled in a manner where the kids are recognized and the meet won't be affected."
The running events are slated to be incorporated into the June 8, 2013 meet. The girls and boys 100 will be in Division III, 400 goes in Division II, while the 800 is in Division I. The shot put events are slated for the Division I field events that begin either at noon or 3 p.m.
Dave Kirk, coach at Chagrin Falls and District 2 representative to the OATCCC said that between 6,000 and 8,000 junior high and high school kids in Ohio use a wheelchair and will now have the opportunity to be student-athletes for their school.
He added competitors will have to meet all the OHSAA eligibility requirements that other student-athletes follow.
"The OHSAA jumped on board quickly when we brought this forward," Kirk said. "During the past year when we have been working on this, every coach we have talked to has said they wish this would have been available awhile ago."
Garfield's Hannah Kirk is one of many able-bodied athletes who are now a spokesperson on adapted sports after attending the USOC Paralympic Leadership Conference in April.
"Being an athlete in track, it's really cool to see them get a chance to compete," Kirk said.