Student barred from using wheelchair at cross-country race

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TURNER, Maine (AP) — A high school cross-country athlete barred from competing in his wheelchair at the state meet is frustrated by the decision by the Maine Principals' Association.

Throughout the season, Leavitt High School sophomore Jonathan Schomaker has competed alongside runners and has even recorded a 7-minute mile.

He appealed to compete in the state championship, but the association denied his appeal. WMTW-TV reports that the discussions are continuing.

Schomaker said he trains with the team every day after school with his special off-road wheelchair.

"I'm human. I'm physically able," he said.

Principals' association officials said that there are safety concerns with the state championship racecourse and that they don't plan to alter the course. They fear Schomaker could get stuck or run into other athletes on the course, which overlaps with loops and goes through wooded areas.

Schomaker, who has cerebellar hypoplasia, competes during the indoor and outdoor track seasons in separate races specifically for wheelchair athletes, the Sun Journal reported. In cross-country, the principals' association isn't able to create another race just for Schomaker, the newspaper reported.

Whether or not he competes, Schomaker said. he'll be traveling to the state meet to support his team — and to send a message to the principals' association.

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