Paralympic 100 Meters Provides Special Moment On Kansas Relays Final Day

April 23, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Some of the world’s greatest athletes were on hand to participate in the 84th annual Kansas Relays this week. Olympic medalists, world-record holders and others competed in a great setting.

There was Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, a 2008 Olympic medalist, winning the 400-meter hurdles for the sixth time. There was Veronica Campbell-Brown, a three-time Olympic champion, claiming the 200 meters. The list went on and on.

However, one special moment occurred Saturday when the paralympic 100-meters was run. And yes, the people involved were just like many of the other competitors at the Relays. They were some of the best in their sport.

The event featured runners who were leg amputees and drew a standing ovation as they flew down the track Saturday afternoon in between races featuring world-class athletes, top collegians and local high school sprinters.

Among the competitors was Kortney Clemons, who currently lives in Lawrence and trains with the Kansas track and field team. He is a world team member and a former U.S. champion.

Clemons, who lost his right leg above the knee, while serving as a medic in Iraq in 2005, did not win his race, but showed the spirit of these special athletes.

“Today was an awesome day,” he said. “I am very appreciative the Kansas Relays put this together for us. We got a chance to come out here and show our talents.”

Blake Leeper won the race going away with a time of 11.32. He defeated Rob Brown, who was second at 12.00. Clemons was fifth in the six-man race with a time of 13.84.

“It felt real good,” Leeper said. “I had a PR (personal best) today. It was a really fast track and the crowd cheering for us was really great and pushed us along.”

Clemons was happy with his time even though he finished fifth.

“For me to be in the 13s every race this year is a big deal for me,” Clemson said. “I usually run 14.2s or 14.3s and to be running 13.8 is great. I am excited and looking forward to growing as an athlete.”

And while the athletic portion of the day was important, the influence he has on others and the influence others have on him was still key.

“It really hits home and lets me know the effect I have on people,” Clemons said about when he talks to people. “Being disabled on an every-day basis you forget the effect it has on people. For people to say things and have the KU Relays have everybody stand up when you run the 100 is huge. It shows that they believe in us and respect us for what we do. It is great.”