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Union sophomore Sam Spore’s track and field season cut short after aging out of high school athletics

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Union’s Sam Spore who was born with spina bifida, is one of the top wheelchair track and field athletes across the state.

“I do the 100, the 200, the 400 and the shot put,” said Spore.

He ranks third in the 100 and 200 meter races, second in the 400 and was a state champion in the shot put as a freshman.

“Winning shot put, it was like my first time going to state and it was my first time competing against other kids in a wheelchair,” he said.

“Just to see him competing and at that level and the excitement that he had, was really cool,” said Sam’s dad Chad Spore.

Spore won’t be able to compete in any more high school track meets with the Knights. His last meet was at the Oelwein Huskies Invitational. He competed in all four of his events and even had a personal best in the 200. He admitted he was sad to have his season end early, but was still in good spirits.

“I was feeling so excited that this was my last race to do and I just have to give it all I got,” said Sam. “Just try my best to finish off the season.”

The next day was Spore’s 20th birthday. According to the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa High School Athletics Association “all contestants must be under 20 years of age” to be eligible to compete in high school athletics. Chad Spore said they appealed the rule, but were unsuccessful. He feels as if there’s inconsistency with the Iowa laws that allow students to attend high school until the age of 21, but compete in athletics up until the age of 20.

“It’s just cut and dry,” said Chad. “It’s unfortunate that it’s that way. That you can’t either finish the season or finish the year.”

He wishes it was a case by case situation considering Sam’s journey from Uganda to Iowa through adoption.

“One of the things that really struck us and about the situation in Uganda was his wheelchair in his orphanage was broken. They actually hauled him around in a wheelbarrow,” Chad explained.

The family was in the process of adopting two other children when they met Sam, but felt he completed their blended family of ten.

“To learn the conditions he was living in, it was a lot of medical issues he had that weren’t really able to be taken care of. Also, in Uganda too when he got to a certain age, he would have been out of the orphanage and kind of on his own and the prospects for his life were not real great,” he added.

To come from where Sam was eight years to where he is now, is nothing short of life-changing. For Sam, participating in track and field has never been about the awards, but about being part of a team.

“The thing I’m going to miss most is being with the team and doing other events with them,” said Sam. “Having more practices with the whole entire team,” he added.

He’ll miss that next spring as well as participating alongside his peers.

“You know this is one of those sports that he can participate as a high schooler with the rest of his team. that’s just something he just really loves. he love being a part of a team and being able to contribute to as well.

The family has reached out to state lawmakers to inquire about what it would take to change the law.

Sam said he isn’t quite ready to give up track and field. He plans to work on improving his times so he could potentially race with the adult Paralympic athletes.

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