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BY LEAH DUSTERHOFT “She’s going Division III? She must not be that good.” Here at West, there’s a belief that if you don’t move on to the Division I (DI) level after high school athletics, then you aren’t really that good at what you do. You should just throw in the towel now if no DI schools are looking at you. Peers have started to ask if I’ll go on to throw discus in college. Right off the bat they ask about the top two schools known for their track and field programs: University of Oregon or Louisiana State University (LSU). I shake my head no but say that I’ve gotten letters from other schools.

My first letter came from a small, DIII, liberal arts college in Minnesota. I was ecstatic to know that schools had started to look at me in my sophomore year. Heck, at that point I was just throwing to see how far I could chuck it. College was far from my young mind. But now that it’s my junior year and college is right around the corner, I’m constantly comparing. When I get a new letter from a school, I compare it to Oregon and LSU. Is this an impressive enough letter to be excited about? I research the team’s throwers and compare myself to their best throwers when they were in high school. The question keeps spinning in my mind: Am I good enough to go to these schools? So that’s all that I focus on, getting that ‘perfect’ throw that will attract the big schools’ attention. I’ve stopped throwing for fun, which is the reason I started throwing in the first place.

It wasn’t until I watched the US Wrestling Olympic Trials in Iowa City that I realized, maybe I didn’t need to meet this DI expectation. I’ve grown up around the sport of wrestling and I find a lot of athletic inspiration in a wrestler’s mindset. Well known wrestlers like Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder controlled their weight classes and dominated their way to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Their victories at the Trials were expected by the wrestling community since they both won world titles back in September. Before they made the Olympic team, Burroughs and Snyder were parts of big name wrestling schools such as the University of Nebraska and Ohio State University. But amongst the Burroughs and the Snyders of the sport, there are wrestlers such as Robbie Smith and Joe Rau. Neither Rau nor Smith were state champions, or even runner ups, in high school. Neither

wrestled at a DI school. However, both made the 2016 Olympic team, just like Burroughs and Snyder. Rau and Smith proved that you don’t have to go to the best school to be the best. State championships in high school aren’t crucial to your success later on in the sport. You don’t need to have all these accolades attached to your name to compete at the professional level. Instead, you need grit, hard work, patience and determination to become a dominant athlete at any level. Rau and Smith take the pressure of the DI expectation off of me. I can step back and focus on getting better as an athlete, instead of constantly looking ahead to see where now will get me. I can get back to where I started, throwing for fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

BLINDED FROM THE TRUTH BY SARAH LONGMIRE Recently, I went with my family to an event for students in Iowa who are visually or hearing impaired and their families. My family was invited to this because my younger brother Jake has congenital glaucoma. At the event they asked parents to introduce themselves and their families. As different parents got up, they began to introduce their children. “This is my oldest son Billy; he’s in sixth grade and plays baseball. This is my other son Fred; he’s in fourth grade and loves to read. Finally, this is my daughter Lily and she is deaf.” This same type of introduction kept

occurring family after family. They introduced their “normal” children by their hobbies, sports and interests and their other children by their disabilities. I wanted to stand up in the middle of that room and scream, “This is my brother Jake and he loves science and reading,” not, “This is my brother Jake and he is blind.” This right here is the problem. We are labeling disabled people by their disabilities when in reality they are so much more. We need to stop limiting them to this box we create for them. My siblings ride bikes without seeing, open doors with their feet and do gymnastics without feet. They are extraordinary kids who don’t need to be left out of activities, pitied or confined because they can do anything they set their minds to. They’re not defined by their disabilities but rather their abilities.


We also need to stop taking away the role models who have set the paths for these kids as they grow up to be adults. One day, I walked up to two of my good friends and they were laughing hysterically. They told me that they had just found a Helen Keller Twitter account with the best jokes. They then proceeded to read me a few jokes: “I was just getting into this really good book today, when I got interrupted by some guy asking for his basketball back,” followed by, “I hate when you’re at the grocery store and can’t tell if a fruit is ripe. Or if it is even a fruit.” At the time I was hurt by this but didn’t have the nerve to speak up, so I just decided to leave the conversation. But I wish I would’ve spoken up. What I should of told them is that by telling these jokes, they are laughing at the way people were born and the people who work hard to lead a normal

life. They are laughing at the fact that some people work ten times harder to run around a track, kick a soccer ball, read and go to the grocery store. Helen Keller was one of the most amazing human beings to ever walk this earth, and yet it is okay in our culture to make fun of her. So many people, especially those who are blind and deaf, look up to her, and by telling these jokes we’re sending them the message that even doing these amazing things isn’t enough because they will always be labeled as disabled. Confining kids to this and taking away the people they admire breaks my heart and needs to be stopped. We need to take a step back and stop labeling and defining kids by their disabilities. Instead, we need to encourage them to succeed and be whoever they want to be.

May 18, 2016 West Side Story  
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