By CHRIS RAMBO
WELLSVILLE-On Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Wellsville sophomore Michael Reiner will line up for his second straight state final in the boys wheelchair 100-meter dash.
He is glad the lanes will be free of curbs.
While practicing Monday in the parking lot at Wellsville High School, Reiner hit a literal bump in the road, flipping his chair over a curb and blowing out both tires.
"I've been having some sinus problems and I can't always hear very well out of my left ear," Reiner said. "I was practicing the 100 and was making my final push at the end. I was further along than I thought and I couldn't hear everybody yelling for me to stop. I looked up and the curb was right in front of me."
Wellsville boys track coach Randy Thrasher chuckled as he recounted the scene.
"He kept going and we were all yelling 'Stop!.....Stop!'"," Thrasher said. "They are thin tires and they were kind of worn to begin with. We were hoping to make them last one more race, but I guess not."
Though he emerged unscathed, Reiner was initially mortified when he saw both of his tires blown.
"I thought we wouldn't be able to get new tires put on in time," Reiner said. "I was scared to death."
The problem was solved with a phone call that evening to the company that manufactured the wheelchair. A Schwinn bicycle shop in Beaver, Pennsylvania put the tires on yesterday and Reiner should have his chair back today to make a couple of more practice runs before heading to Columbus.
"It came out to about $50 per tire," Thrasher said. "I'm almost positive either the school or the booster club will cover the cost."
"I'm glad we got it taken care of quickly," Reiner said. "I wouldn't be laughing about it now if I couldn't go to state."
Reiner will compete in the 100 meters at 4:40 p.m. Saturday. He finished ninth in the 100 at state last year. He has also added the shot put, which he will compete in at noon Saturday.
"The shot put was another thing that I thought I could do well," Reiner said. "I wanted to give myself an extra opportunity to make it to state."
Reiner-who is not wheelchair bound-was born three-and-a-half months premature and was diagnosed with cerebral pasly when he was 12 months old. He always had a strong interest in sports and began competing in track last year when the OHSAA added wheelchair events.
"I love to compete," Reiner said. "Every opportunity I go out there is an opportunity to better myself."
Reiner has had plenty of support along the way. Last year, the school purchased the $4,800 chair he uses for the 100. This year, Thrasher enlisted some friends to help build the chair Reiner uses for the shot put.
"I knew last year that Michael wanted to add the shot put," Thrasher said. "Last year at the state meet I took some pictures of the shot put chairs. I drew up some plans and some of my friends who are good welders made it in a day."
If the school had purchased a shot put chair, the cost would have been several thousand dollars, according to Thrasher.
"The guys that made Michael's chair did it free of charge," Thrasher said. "All it cost me were a few sandwiches."
"The chair works really well," reiner said. "I've gotten better in the shot than I am at the 100."
To qualify for the state meet, Reiner had to have a 100 time under 40 seconds while also finishing in the top eight the times must come from meets with fully automated timing. For the shot put he had to have a throw over nine feet.
At each meet Reiner competes in, the manager will send his times to the state. He claimed the last spot in the 100 with a time of 30.08 seconds at the Inter-Tri County League lower tier meet. He qualified sixth out of six competitors in the shot put with a throw of 10-feet-6 1/4 at the Columbiana County Meet.
"As more people know about wheelchair events, they are starting to grow and I need to work harder to keep my spot at state," Reiner said. "Last year there were only eight wheelchair racers and that grew this year. There is getting to be more competition."
Reiner remembers the emotion he felt at representing Wellsville at last year's state meet and wants to keep experiencing it.
"You really feel a sense of accomplishment, a sense that you earned something," Reiner said. "To be able to represent a place nobody has heard of on a stage like that is an honor."