Pendleton Senior Not Allowed to Compete
PENDLETON, Ore - Pendleton High School Senior Brandon Caswell was born without any legs. But that hasn't stopped him from wrestling, playing football for the Buckaroos, or from being a medal-winning para-Olympic athlete for the United States. However, according to the Oregon State Athletic Association, Brandon cannot score points for his track team because he races in a wheelchair. "Based on O.S.A.A. rules it's an exhibition event. So if I go to a school in Oregon and they think it's a liability they can totally not let me compete. I can't score points in any event I do, we can't even hold any records which is pretty sad. And they don't have to give us any medals if we come in first or anything," says Brandon. The reason Brandon could be a "liability" is that when he crosses the finish line of a race, he isn't able to immediately stop; he has to let the wheels keep going around the turn. Officials say the wheelchair Caswell uses could hurt other runners.
Brandon and his coaches have been fighting the state of Oregon for a long time, but they say they keep getting ignored and things keep getting put off until wheelchair athletes graduate and are out of the system. There are ways to get around Brandon's wheelchair, like staggering the starting line and making Brandon race in the lane furthest out. But even Caswell's coach admits, it's really hard to make that happen. There are a lot of things that go into having to do all these special things at a high school track meet for just one guy.
Luckily for Brandon, he'll soon be at a school that can accomodate his needs. the 18-year-old will be heading down to Tempe next fall to attend Arizona State University, which has a wheelchair track team. His eventual goal is being able to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.