COLUMBUS: Perhaps the best moments to come from the state track meet on Saturday had nothing to do with a medal or a trophy, but rather the first-time participation of Wheelchair-bound athletes at the state level.
During each of the three Wheelchair Division races, new to the state meet this year, allegiances to schools were dropped in favor of a positive human spirit. As each race came to a conclusion and the contestants in this new division came down the home stretch, every fan from every school, along with most of the track officials and many of the high school athletes standing in the mid-field area, gave the participants a standing ovation throughout the race and after its completion.
It was surely an inspirational moment, which is what the only girls contender — Southeast sophomore Jenna Fesemyer — hopes to spread around.
“It means so much to be here,” Fesemyer said, who was born without her left leg. “I really hope I’m touching the lives of other families and getting the message out that maybe their kid can come out too. That’s my main message this whole weekend. I like answering questions and I like telling people what it feels like to be here, because I want them to feel the same way.”
As the only girl, Fesemyer raced against the boys because the Ohio High School Athletic Association decided to run both genders at the same time. Fesemyer says she hopes to have some more competition on the girls side in future years but likes taking on the guys, and liked the format that the OHSAA had put together.
“That’s my favorite thing about racing, beating the boys,” she said.
Since wheelchair racing is fairly new to her, Fesemyer is setting new personal records almost every time out, Saturday included. She finished with personal best times of 1:23.64 in the 400, 2:54.41 in the 800, 23.01 in the 100 and had a best mark of 16 feet, 7¾ inches in the shot put.
Wooster sophomore Casey Followay placed first in two of the three events he competed in. He was first in the 400 (1:01.93) and 800 (2:12.22), and second in the 100 (17.35).
“I think this is the most exciting race that I have been to because I am competing at the state level and the fact that I am making a difference for kids with disabilities,” Followay said. “I was very nervous to come out and here compete. My family, coach and teammates have been very supportive. We had a really good year.”
Casey’s parents Lisa and Brett Followay and three sisters were in attendance.
“We have been pushing and advocating for this,” Lisa said. “This is very exciting for us. This is the first time it has happened. Our organization loans out chairs, so seven of the athletes here including Jenna and Randy, are using equipment from our organization [Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio]. This is pretty exciting.”
Kent Roosevelt sophomore Randy McMullen also participated in four events. He was second in the shot put (18-10½), fourth in the 400 (1:11.14), fourth in the 800 (2:40.86) and fifth in the 100 (20.01 seconds).
Parents Tom and Debbi McMullen cheered on their son. They are hoping for more participation from boys and girls in the future.
“It is very exciting to watch Randy,” Tom said. “He really had dropped his times. One of things that is really nice about this is that as all these athletes compete against one another, their times drop. Jenna raced him the other day in the 800 and her time dropped 30 seconds. His time in the 400, he dropped almost 20 seconds to take fourth.
Mokros wins two state titles
Canton Central Catholic junior Katie Mokros took home the state title in the Division III girls 100-meter dash with a time of 12.32 seconds. For good measure, she later won the 200-meter dash (25.25). Mokros had to twice hold off Van Buren senior Sarah Benson, who was within two-tenths of a second of her in each event.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.