Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1998, Vol. 17 No. 1

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Blind Twins Accept A New Challenge:
Track Competition

by John Hunt

Reprinted from the Chattanooga Free Press, Tuesday, April 2, 1998.

Coach Gerald Williams is a busy man these days. He's a teacher at Ooltewah Middle School and that gives him plenty to do, but after school he deals with almost a hundred kids who want to be part of the highly successful track program.

April and Amanda Jones are just two young ladies who have a strong desire to help the team. They are 12-year-old twins who are in the sixth grade. They've never been involved in track and field before, and it's a tremendous challenge for them.

More of a challenge for them, in fact, than for their teammates as cold, rainy days change to sunny and pleasant ones in which just being outside is a blessing of its own.

You see, April and Amanda are both blind and need assistance when they do their workouts.

Being unable to see hasn't slowed them down, though. If anything, they are eager to do what it takes to do something they've never done before.

"Something like this is completely new to me, but I'm here to give them a chance to compete and to participate in a team atmosphere." he explained recently.

"Originally it was Amanda, but April decided she wanted to run too. So far, our biggest problem has been finding them a guide.=20 They have to have a guide so they will know where to go. But they just want to compete and that's what's important."

"You know how it is with kids. They want to be outside in the spring when the weather is nice," Williams added. "But I'm excited that they want to participate."

"We have a lot of kids on this team, but we have exhibition races on the days we have meets, and you can bet that they will have a race every time we compete."

There isn't a track facility at Ooltewah Middle, but the team works out at the high school. It can be a very busy place with lots of activity taking place at the same time, which does concern Williams in regard to the Jones twins.

"One of my biggest concerns is their safety," the coach said. "There are so many people on the track at the same time, but it will be interesting."

"We'll just take it day by day and see what happens. And I'm sure the other kids will help out all they can."

"They will be a good example for other kids, and it will bring our group closer together," he predicted. "But we just want them to enjoy it and to have fun."

Amanda has done some running before, but not in a formal setting. She wants to compete, against her sister if nobody else.

"I've always enjoyed running, and I want to increase my endurance." she said. "I've tried out before but didn't make the team. And exhibition races are better than no race at all."

"We want to compete against each other," she said, issuing a challenge to April.

It's been a totally new experience for April, but one that has been positive thus far.

"I've found out that running is fun, although my legs are sore," she admitted. "It's a little scary being out there for the first time. I don't know exactly where I'm going, but I just wish I could run faster."

Amanda and April are typical sixth grade girls. They are both members of the Chattanooga Girls Choir, and they do other things young people like to do. They ride bikes and roller blade and even ice skate.

Track is just the latest on their list of new things to try. Would you like to help them out by being a part-time guide? They train about two hours every afternoon and would love anyone's assistance. If interested, call Coach Williams at Ooltewah Middle School.