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High School Athlete In Wheelchair Given Two Options For Future Cross Country Races

A Leavitt High School cross country athlete who races in a wheelchair alongside runners has been given two options for competing in some upcoming contests.

The Maine Principals' Association (MPA) says Jonathan Shomaker could either compete alone in a newly created wheelchair division on a shorter, modified course at an upcoming regional meet, or he could race behind other runners in an exhibition race, but would not count as a member of the team. Shomaker's father says for now the family intends to choose the second option, so that Jonathan can race with his peers, but he hopes that the MPA will follow through on creating a wheelchair division race.

“When he completes the race successfully, without incident, that they then understand that the safety concerns are not an issue, and you will institute the wheelchair division as specified in option A,” he says.

In a statement released Friday, Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake of Turner says both the MPA’s options discriminate against Shomaker because of his disability. Timberlake says he plans to submit legislation that would prohibit Maine schools from participating in any organization that discriminates against students.