Apr 25, 2014
Placing an emphasis on equal participation opportunities, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association now allows wheelchair athletes to compete for state championships on the track. At Southwest Edgecombe High School, Catherine Armstrong is chasing that dream – again.
Armstrong, racing in her wheelchair, is a champion many times over. And while many people may not recognize her as an athlete on first glance, she quickly proves otherwise.
“I think they assume I’m the manager or something,” Armstrong said. “I’m always determined to do what I know I can do.”
“Catherine is a very strong-willed person,” said Southwest Edgecombe track coach Delphine Mabry. “She takes whatever challenges she faces and works really hard to make the best of her situation.”
Armstrong helped blaze the trail for allowing the wheelchair events at the state championships. She began racing in a traditional wheelchair, but now utilizes a three-wheel racing model designed specifically for speed.
“That is the most exciting feeling you can ever have,” Armstrong said about setting a personal best. “My freshman year on the 100 meter dash, which is just the straightaway, my best was a 37 (seconds). When I got this chair, it went down to like 30-29.”
One unique caveat is that Armstrong doesn’t always have an opponent. When she is racing alone, she has to beat a qualifying time set by the state. That has led to multiple personal records.
“She has taken this disability and used it as an ability,” said Sandra Langley, Southwest Edgecombe’s athletic director.
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