Rollin’: Sophomore sets three school records in qualifying for state track meet

Paralympian John Register visited Cedar Falls High School on April 10 to give an inspirational talk, and sophomore Halie Frahm later asked if she could take a picture with him. Register walked over and took something out of his pocket. He placed his Sydney 2000 Paralympics silver medal around her neck for a photo and according to Frahm said, “‘My 2000 Sydney is yours until you can get your own.’ It was really sweet and amazing and a life-changing experience. We are definitely going to keep in contact.”

Frahm is a para-athlete on the women’s track team. She decided to join the team this year after biology teacher Jason Lang persuaded her.

“Two years ago I worked with a student in Independence in the wheelchair division and he competed in state track at the end of the year. I saw Halie in the hallways and though it was such a cool experience for him, I thought that she would probably enjoy the experience as well,” Lang said.

“He really pushed me, and I was talking to my friend who he coached, and he looked me in the face and told me, ‘This is your shot. This is your chance do it now. You have a really good team with coaches and leaders around you,’ so I figured that I would give it a shot,” Frahm said.

Before Frahm started her journey to learn how to maneuver on the track, she needed a sports wheelchair.

“The chair that I use for track was something I was so lucky to get. Adaptive Sports loaned me my chair, and when Mike, the head of the organization, came to drop it off for me, he actually had to pull the price tag for it, and that never happens when you play on loaners. A lot of time when you play on used equipment, it is somebody’s old and banged up, 10-year-old, rickety thing,” Frahm said.

Frahm’s chair is challenging because it requires her to switch and maneuver levers while she runs in a race.

“I think that for Halie to take a risk and come out for a sport that she did not know a lot about shows her character. I think that she just dove all in and just went for it. She obviously has a lot of support from the coaches, but she has done a lot of learning on her own just as much as we have done the learning. She is definitely an expert in the races itself, but she has also learned a lot to think about the wheelchair as a whole in the event,” women’s track coach Chris Wood said.

“Getting used to the chair itself has been kind of complicated,” Frahm said. “You use a different mechanism called a compensator in order to turn, and you have to reset it per each turn because each track is different, so you have set it for each straight, and set it for each turn, and in the middle of your race you actually have to hit it in order to turn.”

In wheelchair racing, there are similar rules to what boundaries on the track can disqualify a runner.

“My outside tire can go out if it does not impede anyone, but if my inside tire goes inside, I am automatically disqualified,” Frahm said.

Most runners in the paralympics sit on their legs for aerodynamic benefits, but Frahm has made a different decision.

“I still have some feelings in my legs, and a lot of people choose to sit on their legs to sit forward, which makes them more aerodynamic, but because I still have that feeling, I chose to sit right in front of me, which is a lot different than the racers that you see,” Frahm said. “It also makes you a lot less aerodynamic, so learning how to push through that and still get good times was also a lot of really hard work,” she said.

There are an abundance of colleges around Iowa that include adaptive sports. Frahm is hoping to become part of one after high school.

“My goal is to go on to do collegiate track. We are very lucky here in the Midwest. We have a lot of universities that are very concentrated in adaptive sports. You have Wisconsin Whitewater that has basketball. You have Southern Minnesota that has a basketball team, but I want to go to the University of Illinois. They were one of the first colleges to have adaptive collegiate teams, and they are one of the top in the nation to have both a basketball and a track team. A lot of the paralympians that you see on TV for Team USA competing in all of these marathons and competitions actually went to the University of Illinois and went on to become professional athletes,” Frahm said.

The women’s track team has helped Frahm feel welcome throughout the season.

“She is so determined, and it is great to have someone who constantly works and doesn’t let obstacles like the weather get in her way. She is always pushing herself to be better than she was yesterday, and because of that, she has progressed and grown so much,” sophomore Sabrina Leistikow said. “All of the girls on the team have been welcoming. Everyone cheers her on during practice and meets All the girls are in track and push themselves and work, so it is great to have someone with  a different way of racing on our team and be able to support them in any way possible,” she said.

As Frahm continues to compete in meets, she has continued to consistently set new personal and school records every time. Four other girls in Iowa compete in adaptive track as well, and they are all friends.

“I know all of the girls that I would be competing against. There is definitely more fuel to the fire upping the ante because we all know each other, and we all know how we run. It is going to be very interesting to see what it is going to be like when we all line up together at State,” she said.

On May 17-19, Frahm will be with her teammates and friends on the starting line at State.

“I think it will be awesome for her to be at State and will be great,” Wood said. “She will have some competition finally, which I know has been a bummer for her. Some of the meets that we were going to have I know there was going to be other competition there. Every racer knows what it is like to race against yourself. It is hard, regardless, so for her to finally go out and have some competition is going to be great for her, and, of course, at State with huge crowds is going to be a blast,” he said.

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