I ended my last post about Matt’s plan to race in two events at this Friday’s University of Maryland Kehoe Twilighter meet. Since he qualified for Nationals in the 5000 at Gallaudet University last month, he wanted to secure a qualification in the 1500, too. If he is going to go all the way to Minnesota, it would be great to have two events to race. Well, that may not happen. Let me start by saying that the University of Maryland Kehoe Twilighter is not an open meet, which means that it is up to the race director to determine who can and cannot compete in the meet. Here is what they published:
Unattached / Open / Club Entries A limited number of open, club, and unattached entries will be accepted to enhance the fields for the meet. Unattached athletes must email their entries to: email@example.com by April 27th for consideration. Please include (1) the event(s) for which you are requesting entry and (2) your performances in those event(s) from this year or last year. Not all requests will be accepted. The entry fee for unattached athletes can be paid on the day of the meet and must be paid prior to competition. Fee is $25.00.
Matt sent multiple requests to compete, and in full transparency, told the University of Maryland that he’s a visually-impaired, former collegiate runner, who would like to race so that he can qualify for Nationals and ultimately the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team. Silence. He then asked a coach from a local track team that competes in the Kehoe Twilighter for assistance. Only then did he find out second-hand that they are “uncomfortable” having Matt compete in the 1500 because of the “potential for mishap” and that Matt could “impede on someone else” during the first few meters. Matt gave it one more shot and reached out to the Maryland track coaches to explain is visual acuity and track record. He received a “we’ll get back to you” type response. With the meet scheduled for Friday, they have failed to get back to Matt. Some of you reading this raced in college with Matt at Westminster or weekly at W-L with DC Road Runners. Do you recall any mishaps on the track or times when Matt impeded on any other athlete’s ability to race? Matt doesn’t. One of the core values of the NCAA is inclusion to improve the learning environment for all student-athletes and enhance excellence within the Association. The NCAA includes disabilities among the dimensions of diversity that they support. If Matt were a student-athlete, we might be able to argue that the University of Maryland was violating the NCAA rules and the Americans with Disabilities Act by not allowing Matt to race. Since Matt is no longer a collegiate athlete we have little recourse for this blatant (in our opinion) discrimination. All I can do is write about it in the hopes that if any of you are in a decision-making position that you’ll think twice before you say no to someone.
Maryland didn’t care about Matt’s track history, that he’d never had an incident on the track, or that he is trying to represent the United States on the world stage. They saw potential liability and stopped there. As Matt’s wife, I am a bit biased. Nonetheless, I have a pretty good understanding of Matt’s limitations. He’s horrible at certain household chores, his socks don’t always match, he can’t read to his kids, and when it is pouring rain outside he can’t go get the car (which is by far the most annoying on this list). That’s a pretty short, but representative list of the limitations. However, the list of what Matt can do is endless. I don’t know if it is despite his disability or because of it, but Matt doesn’t give up. Last month he came in third in a D-3 track event. Would he come in third in a D-1 track meet? Probably not. Would it have mattered? No. We hear on the news all the time stories of people overcoming obstacles and persevering through adversity. I think Matt is one of those stories. If Matt doesn’t make the U.S. Paralympic team, that’s okay. He’ll have given it his all. It just saddens me that someone would not support his journey. Maryland isn’t the only meet out there. We’re still trying to find another meet that will race the 1500 so that Matt can compete in two events at Nationals, but we are running out of options. We’ll keep you posted.