Southeast duo flourishes against competition

COLUMBUS – If one was looking for some inspiration at the state track and field meet Saturday in Columbus, there would be no trouble finding it.

Everyone in the stands rose to their feet and gave numerous rounds of applause for the boys and girls wheelchair races. This was the second year the Ohio High School Athletic Association held wheelchair events, and this year, Southeast’s Jenna Fesemyer once again put on a show for the roaring crowd.

She broke the state meet record in the 400-meter dash, which was her own mark (previously set at last year’s state meet), with a time of 1:13.08. She also rolled into first place in the girls 100-meter dash and broke the state meet record again in the event with a time of 20.81.

“It’s just great knowing that it’s a beautiful day and that there are other girls here enjoying this as much as I am and have grown to have that same passion as I do,” Fesemyer said.

Fesemyer’s teammate Emily Gallatly also competed in the girls 400 and 100 wheelchair events. The freshman placed fourth in both, and Fesemyer said she was glad to have a friend by her side this year.

“It’s an honor to compete with other disabled girls, especially Emily,” she said. “With that being said, it’s just something you can’t mince words.”

Gallatly grew up with Fesemyer and has known her since kindergarten, but ever since the freshman was invited to watch Fesemyer compete in an invitational meet last year, Gallatly saw one of her oldest friends in a new light.

“I’ve always looked up to Jenna because she handled her disability really well, and I always thought Jenna was so cool for that, and the last few months in track, I’ve become really close with her,” Gallatly said. “We practiced multiple times a week (this season) and grew very close.”

Fesemyer became Gallatly’s inspiration to throw. She knew she wanted to compete and Fesemyer was happy to show her friend the ropes and mentor her through the process of wheelchair track and field.

“We see each other all the time, I look up to her for advice, she’s like a big sister to me,” Gallatly said.

The two girls compete in most of Southeast’s meets together, but they are usually the only two wheelchair racers. It’s hard for them to find competition at most meets, which is why Gallatly and Fesemyer were so happy to have the opportunity to race in the wheelchair girls 400 and 100 – they finally got a decent look at good competition.

“Most of the events, it’s just me and Jenna competing against each other to better our own times,” Gallatly said.

Fesemyer said her coach (who is her mother) helped her get into wheelchair racing last year after her mother attended an OHSAA press conference back in 2012, when the OHSAA made the decision to add wheelchair racing to the track and field lineup.

Fesemyer helped her daughter recruit Gallantly this season and has read books and learned different ways and techniques to help the two become better wheelchair racers.

“I’ve never imagined myself doing anything like this,” Gallatly said. “I’d love to get other girls to do this.”