Roll Like the Wind

Stackhouse competes in track with wheelchair

Junior+Megan+Stackhouse+poses+for+a+photo+with+Westside+junior%2C+Eva+Houston.+Stackhouse+traditionally+competes+in+the+200+meter+dash.
Junior Megan Stackhouse poses for a photo with Westside junior, Eva Houston. Stackhouse traditionally competes in the 200 meter dash.

Junior Megan Stackhouse poses for a photo with Westside junior, Eva Houston. Stackhouse traditionally competes in the 200 meter dash.

Laurie Stackhouse

Laurie Stackhouse

Junior Megan Stackhouse poses for a photo with Westside junior, Eva Houston. Stackhouse traditionally competes in the 200 meter dash.

Lucy Tu, Opinions Editor

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Students are lined up at the start. Time seems to slow down as their muscles tense in anticipation. People are on the edge of their seats in the stands while teammates wait nearby, ready to cheer until their voices are hoarse. But the only thing the competitors can think of are the track, the bang of the starting gun, and the finish line.

For anyone who has ever participated in track and field, this image is all too familiar. The sound of shrill whistles, panting voices, and pounding feet bring back memories of meets. Junior track competitor Megan Stackhouse is no exception to this rule but with one little difference. Some run. Some vault. Stackhouse competes on wheels.
Having been born with a spinal injury that resulted in an inability to move her legs, Stackhouse has done her day-to-day activities in a wheelchair her whole life. Among these activities are various sports, as Stackhouse is no stranger to competitive athletics and has been playing para-basketball for 12 years. However, track and field is a brand new experience.

“I’ve done sports my entire life, but I only started track this spring. My friend from Westside, Eva, who also competes in a wheelchair, encouraged me to try it. I’m glad I did,” Stackhouse said.

For Stackhouse, this track season is a matter of picking up the basics and learning how to do things like turn and stay straight. To aid her, she has huge support from her coach and many others.

“Honestly, I’m new to this too. I’ve never coached this, and she’s never competed it. [Eva] and the coach from Westside are a huge help by teaching us workouts adapted for Megan,” head girls track coach Monte Scheef said. “The chair is a whole other beast, and we’re figuring it out as we go along.”

On Mar. 31, Stackhouse competed in her first varsity meet. Currently, she is only competing in the 200 meter dash, but both she and her coach are eager to attempt the 800 meter race.

In most ways, Stackhouse’s track experience is no different from any other athletes. She does laps, works on endurance training, and is passionate about the activity.

“It’s the speed of it. I’ve done other sports, but there’s this huge adrenaline rush I get when I race that I love,” Stackhouse said.

Yet, Stackhouse contrasts from others and shines for all the right reasons. Because of wheelchair racers like her, the Nebraska State Activities Association (NSAA) ruled to allow wheelchair users to compete alongside other students at this year’s district and state meet for the first time ever.

“It’s the first time a lot of people have ever seen it on the circuit. Before recent years, it’s never really been done here before,” Scheef said. “It’s nice to be able to show people there is more than one way to do this sport.”

At the 2018 NSAA track meet, there will be many schools and many students, all racing to cross the finish line. Stackhouse hopes to be right beside them, proving that she is like any other racer. However, she is outspoken about how glad she is just to have the chance to compete.

“My goals are to have fun, and I’m so excited for the future,” Stackhouse said. “My favorite part about track is the acceptance I get. Being able to join able-bodied people and be racing right next to them, it’s great. I’m so happy I’m involved in something like this.”

Bitter wind, relay batons, and jumping into sand pits are all highlights of the track and field season, but they are not what define it. Stackhouse may be redefining one aspect of track and field, but she is also becoming a part of the definition of this sport: teamwork, drive, and passion.

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