Columbus, OH (written by High School Sports.net) -- The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors made a historic decision today when it 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 division and one girls division will compete in the 100 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and shot put, with participants wearing school uniforms and being awarded 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 prepared statement. "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.
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 100, 400 or 800, 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 may also hold down the chair during the throwing attempt to prevent excessive movement.
"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 prepared statement. "They will be representing their schools and communities in ways that have never been seen in Ohio. I commend the Ohio High School Athletic Association and the state track and field coaches association for making this dream a reality for the athletes participating in Paralympic sport."
Highlights of Wheelchair Track and Field Events at the OHSAA State Tournament
- Separate championship final events for boys and girls will be held in the 100 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and shot put.
- Eight boys and eight girls will qualify for the state tournament in each event.
- Each event at the state tournament will be a final. While athletes will be participating in school uniforms, only individual awards will be presented and athletes will not score points for their school team.
- No separate finals will be held based on the division of the participating athletes' schools. In other words, each event will combine athletes from Division I, Division II and/or Division III schools.