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High school wheelchair athlete breaks barriers

Jonathan Schomaker is given green light to compete in cross-country regional meet after being denied.

TURNER, Maine — Fifteen-year-old Jonathan Schomaker loves training for cross-country track. He does so, in his wheelchair.

"Since I don't run with my legs, basically I run with my arms," said Jonathan.

The Leavitt Area High School sophomore, who was was born with pontocerebellar hypoplasia, has been fighting for the right to compete.

He was told no by the Maine Principals' Association. They said he's a safety hazard to other runners. Jonathan was devastated, and so was his dad, who runs alongside him at meets.

"It's totally frustrating because people with disabilities have to fight for everything that they do, just to be able to go on about their lives," his dad, Jon Schomaker, said.

They didn't give up. After appeals, the Maine Principals' Association agreed to let Jonathan start the meet with everyone else. He will then take a different route on the same course.

It's a victory for the family and, hopefully, for others.

"Even if we get one kid who wants to try this that doesn't have to go through this process, it's all worth it," said Schomaker.

Jonathan is understandably excited that he finally gets to be like the other athletes. He gets to race next to his friends, while fighting his way to the finish line.

"Don't discriminate against a person in a wheelchair. You don't know what they will be able to do," said Jonathan.

His dad said Jonathan can run a 5K in 26 minutes. The regional meet will take place Saturday, and then he will go on to the state meet. 

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