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Sports Spotlight: Medford's Lewandowski overcomes obstacles to compete
MEDFORD - Zechariah Lewandowski isn't much of a talker.

"The first week, Zech didn't know what to say to us and we didn't know to say to him," Medford track and field coach Michael Bub said. "We just kind of looked at each other."

Get him on the track, though, and it seems like he can go a mile a minute.

Lewandowski was born with Spina Bifida, a condition where the spine doesn't develop properly.

Some people with Spina Bifida can walk, but Lewandowski cannot.

There's only one thing Lewandowski wanted more than being able to walk.

"I just wanted to be part of a team," Lewandowski said.

In order to find that team, Zech looked to one of the only options available.

"There are clubs for wheelchair athletes, but from a WIAA standpoint, to be part of a high school team, the only sport you can be in is track and field," Bub said.

Andree Brushaber is a special education teacher at Medford High School, which meant it was her job to figure out how to make track and field both safe and fun for Lewandowski.

"First of all, we had to get the chair because you can't use a regular chair to race in," Brushaber said. "So we had to order the chair and we ended up ordering a shotput chair as well."

"I watched a lot of videos on how other people practiced for it, where their hand placement was, the difference in gloves," Brushaber added.

Lewandowski went out for the 100-meter and 400-meter runs as well as the shot put, but with only about a dozen wheelchair athletes in the whole state, he had trouble finding people to compete against.

"When we go to some meets like last year, he didn't have anybody to race against," Brushaber said. "We didn't have one meet until state and there were all these people there."

For once, there were others just like him to race with and plenty of fans to cheer him on.

"I like going to different places, seeing other tracks," Lewandowski said.

"They get to be viewed as athletes too, not just a kid in a wheelchair," Bub said.

Nobody cares less about Lewandowski's wheelchair than the Medford athletes who competed alongside him at state.

"We're excited to watch him today," Medford senior Lauren Meyer said. "We're really excited. We're proud of him and everything he's accomplished."

Those accomplishments included a pair of sixth-place finishes in the 100 and 400-meter races.

"He's a true inspiration to all of us," Meyer said. "Everyone pushes Zech and he gives it right back to us. He's always there, always supporting."

Story By: Andrew Goldstein

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