By John Bombatch
COLUMBUS — Always one to push herself to the limit, Xenia Christian’s Grace Norman wasn’t entirely happy with her finish in the 1,600-meter (1-mile) run, Saturday at the state high school track and field meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. It was the final race in her illustrious high school career, and she wanted to end things on the awards podium.
A year ago, Norman had become the first amputee in the nation to ever qualify amongst able-bodied runners for a high school state championship event. Norman did it three times!
She qualified for the state high school cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track championships. And she wowed the Owens Stadium crowd by becoming the first amputee to finish on the podium, last year in the mile run with a personal-best time of 5:14.09.
The top eight finishers out of 16 of the state’s best are recognized on the awards podium. Norman finished ninth.
The Jamestown resident said she had to battle through some traffic in Saturday’s mile run.
“I had a really strong mental race, so that was a big improvement over last week,” she said. “There was this huge pack in the beginning, so you were either going to get cutoff on the inside or you’d have to come around the outside. That was a little rough, but I was happy with the way I finished. I would’ve loved to have finished on the podium, but I guess that wasn’t in God’s plan. I raced hard, and it was a great last senior race.”
Norman’s time of 5:14.46 was less than 0.4 seconds off of her PR in the mile run from last year’s state championships, but even if she would have run her best time, ever, she still would’ve placed ninth this time. All eight runners ahead of her finished in 5:07.76 or quicker.
“My goal was to break the (Xenia Christian) school record of 5:11, so I didn’t quite do that. … I’m a little disappointed with not PRing, but I gave it my best and that’s all I can ask for,” she said. “I am excited for the summer and what it has to give me.”
And who can blame her?
Norman has a shot at making potentially a bit more history, this time at the international level.
By virtue of her current world no. 3 ranking in the women’s PT4 category of the paratriathlon, Norman is assured of competing as a member of the U.S. National Paratriathlon Team in the Rio Paralympic Games in September.
She has a chance to make the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team as well!
The current American record holder in the paralympic women’s T-44 class in the 400-meter run (with a time of 1:03.83), Norman will now be busy training to compete in that event in Rio as well.
While U.S. Paralympic officials are still trying to verify it, Norman’s attempt at qualifying to the Paralympic Games in two separate sports could be a first.
“I’m excited to have that opportunity to make both teams. It would be amazing. …The Paralympic Trials are in less than a month, so I’ll have some time to train and get ready for it,” she said.
The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials will take place from June 30 to July 2 in Charlote, N.C. Norman’s race in the 400-meter run will be on July 2, and the official announcement of the Paralympic Games team members will be made the following day.
The Paralympic Games are scheduled for Sept. 7-18 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.