Wheelchairs may have once been a hinderance to participating in track and field events in high school, but starting next year in Ohio, students who are wheelchair-bound will have a chance to participate. The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors approved on Thursday a recommendation to add eight wheelchair championship final events (4 for boys, 4 for girls) to the OHSAA state track and field meet beginning in 2013.
Track and field is the first sport in which the OHSAA includes wheelchair athletes as a part of a state tournament. In adding the wheelchair events, Ohio joins about a dozen other states who have done the same.
Wheelchair athletes in each the boys and girls division will compete in the 100m, 400m, 800m, and shot put. They will wear their school uniforms and will be awarded individual honors, although they will not score points for their teams.
In a prepared statement, OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross, Ph.D., said:
“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. 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.”
Throughout the regular season, all fully automated timing qualifying wheelchair times for the 100m, 800m and wheelchair distances in the shot put will be collected by the OATCCC. The top eight boy and eight girl times or distances in each event will qualify for the championship final events at the state meet, without regard to the divisional assignments of the participants' schools.
In order to qualify to participate in the wheelchair events, athletes must have a permanent, physical disability and must be verified by a licensed physician. They must also meet all OHSAA and school eligibility requirements. Coaches are not permited to assist athletes in the 100m, 400m, or 800m, and motorized chairs are not permitted. Athletes participating in 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 in order to prevent excessive movement.
The OHSAA State Track and Field tournament is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 8, 2013. It has scheduled the girls and boys wheelchair division 100m events taking place during the Division III tournament, the 400m wheelchair events taking place during the Division II tournament, and the 800m wheelchair and wheelchair shot put will take place during the Division I field events.