The state track and field championships are a time for athletes and fans to be proud.
But after watching dozens of people flood out of their seats as fast as they could, I’m left with nothing but disappointment and sadness.
Saturday, a glorious day to be outside, allowed many to witness the state’s best track and field athletes.
Included in that group was the state’s top para-athletes, who competed in races and fielding events during the 4A state track and field championships. When it came time for the first para-athlete race shortly after 12:30 p.m., people, you know who you are, got up and headed for the exits like it was the seventh-inning stretch.
Shame on you.
What you missed was arguably some of the best competition of the entire weekend. For those of us who did not eagerly watch these athletes give it their all despite immense physical or mental challenges, here’s what you missed in order to secure that second hot dog.
First, you missed boys with no legs sprint their hearts out in the 200-meter and 800 wheelchair races.
Adonis Rosabal of Kent-Meridan finished fifth in the 200. To most, his finish doesn’t mean much. Or the ultra-competitor would say he had a bad day. But, as Rosabal, who is missing both legs below the knee, came off the track, he disagreed.
“Man, that was so much fun,” he shouted as he exited the track.
Snohomish’s Seth Perrera, also missing both legs below the knee, finished first in the race. As the other four competitors made their way off the track, Perrera stayed right there in the track’s exit aisleway to congratulate each of them on a great race.
“Great job, you guys, great race,” he said to each of his competitors as they exited the track.
But that Diet Coke was calling, and you probably missed it. Shame on you.
The Federal Way Eagles brought a handful of athletes to the state championships, as they do each year.
But it was para-athlete Kailynn Hyde who stole the show.
She competes in the ambulatory shot put and discus. On Friday, Hyde took home Federal Way’s lone state championship in the discus when she threw it 26 feet, 2 inches.
Hyde was right back at it on Saturday as she tried to win a second state title, this time in the shot put. Incredibly, she threw 9-9, which put her on the podium for second behind Kentridge’s Careese Allen.
It’s fine. You missed it because nature called. I get it.
But why are these athletes viewed differently than their teammates?
Here’s the thing: The para-athletes get the same uniforms as their teammates. They travel on the same bus as their teammates. As far as competition goes, they are held to the same coaching and rules standards as their teammates.
You turn away because an athlete is missing legs?
The para-athletes went through just as much work, if not more, than the teammate who is not disabled. Shouldn’t their challenges make them more interesting to watch and root for?
Moreover, the para-athletes are everything sports should be. They are the ones who go to great lengths to show those who say they can’t that they can, and that they can do it well.
It’s fine though, really. Those of us who stuck around to appreciate the spirit and drive of these para-athletes on the biggest stage got to witness something special last weekend.
While many took the time to appreciate and applaud these athletes for their drive and will to compete, there were those waiting in line for popcorn.
And, as track regulars know, there are prolonged breaks in between events so people can get food or use the restroom, so there’s no excuse for abandoning those who go to incredible lengths to show that sports aren’t as exclusive as we try to make them.
Shame on you.
Jerod Young is the sports reporter for the Federal Way Mirror. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.