Wheelchair Events Coming To West Texas Relays 2/17/14
by MARSHALL HUGHES
CBS 7 Sports
When the West Texas Relays open in three weeks, it will be historic in the sense that new events will be on the schedule; the 100 meter dash, the 400 meter dash and the shot put, all for wheelchair competitors.
Sporting a Team USA Olympic jacket with a racing wheelchair in tow, Paralympic advocate Wendy Gumbert made Edward Gonzales' day Monday morning.
"I never expected something like this," Gonzales said. "But now I have the opportunity and I'm going to try it."
A junior at Permian High School, Gonzales has competed in wheelchair basketball and tennis but track and field? No that didn't exist. All until this year. The UIL approved a proposal to add wheelchair competitions for athletes after Gumbert delivered an impassioned plea to the council in October.
"It is their tennis shoe," Gumbert said. The Manager of the Texas Regional Paralympic Sport and national team coach for Team USA wheelchair racing went on to say, "It is their athletic equipment that they need to do the sport and that's the only difference. That's what we have to get the state and the coaches to understand. These kids are athletes. They just happen to have a racing chair instead of spikes. Their athletes. You coach them the same way."
Now she and her Paralympic gold medalist husband Saul Mendoza travel around the state handing out racing chairs through a loan program.
"I don't mind driving five hours up to get a kid started and get him in a racing chair to see the smile on his face because I know how big of a difference it can make on his life," Gumbert said.
Odessa College Tennis Director Adam Lucio, who is also a wheelchair athlete and one who will now be coaching Edward in Track and Field says he's glad to see more events coming to the Permian Basin for wheelchair athletes.
"I grew up here not having anything," Lucio said. "I had to go through and find my own stuff in bigger cities so I'm looking forward to bringing some of that here."
And While bigger cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin are jumping on board, for our size, the Permian Basin is well ahead of the curve.
"This is why we're here," ECISD Athletic Director Todd Vesely said. "This is why this office exists is to provide as much opportunity for as many kids as we can do. Our job is to help those coaches help those kids. If adding these events helps a few more kids, that's what we're here for."
Edward is currently the only candidate for wheelchair events within the Ector County School District, but the West Texas Relay committee is hoping to attract more athletes all over West Texas before the Relays begin March 7.