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Beyond the Finish Line

Disabled high schoolers have been forced to the sidelines during their school's athletic events, until this year.

NewsChannel 10's Michelle Langowski introduces us to a local athlete who isn't letting her disability keep her from crossing the finish line.

A student's disability no longer holds them back from joining their peers and competing in sports.

Last year, the US Department of Education made that clear and, here in Texas, the UIL has jumped on board... now, the race is on for one river road high school junior.

"I've always to be in sports, it's always been something I wanted to do...I've just never had the opportunity to do it."

16 year old Emilee Hilbish is a Junior at River Road High School and although she has been in a wheelchair since the age of 10, that will no longer keep her from playing competitive sports.

Soon she will be on starting line alongside her peers as she competes in her first track meet, including the 100 meter and 400 meter.

Emilee: "It made me want to show people in the panhandle to maybe get more involved and make things for disabled kids and show people that we can compete with other able-bodied kids."

But in order for Emilee and other disabled athletes to compete - they need the right equipment, a hurdle some can't quite clear.

To help purchase several athletic chairs, Emilee, along with several local high school athletes put their skills to the test on the basketball court last month.

Local non-profit "One Chair at a Time" is working on bringing adaptive sports to the panhandle.

The goal: to give junior high and high school athletes a chance to compete.

Joe Chris Rodriguez: "It brings that part of feeling like a team. I played sports in high school and you are part of a team. You feel like you are doing something, get your letter jacket - that's the big thing in high school - and to compete on the big stage in front of everybody." ... something Emilee's mom, Stephanie, says every kid should have the opportunity to experience.

"It makes a big difference, because people forget when you are disabled and you are a child growing up - you've never done a lot like rollerskate or go down a hill on a bike and a lot of things like that.. so moving quickly is a big deal."

"The sky is the limit with them. As long as we get these kids and start getting them their equipment.. we're hoping we have this in the community, in the Texas panhandle," added Joe Chris.

Emilee has been practicing for her first meet and her family will be there on the sidelines watching as Emilee makes history in the panhandle.

"We've been wanting her to do this for awhile, so we just jumped on it when it did happen," added her dad, Tom.

"Most everybody does sports and it's nice to be able to be a part of that," said Emilee.

Her mom agreed and says "its so important that other students see these kids as regular kids

Emilee's first track meet will take place this Friday, February 28, 2014 in Fritch.

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