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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

Heather Morris needs help to walk, but she zipped through a 5-kilometer race Wednesday in Chesterfield County.

Morris, 26, was one of four "assisted athletes" pushed in strollers by members and friends of the Manchester High School wrestling team.

Her father, Bernie Morris of Chester, walked the race but didn't push his daughter.

"She likes to go faster than a walk," Morris said.

Heather Morris has atypical Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects her walking and speaking.

Asked if she enjoyed the race, she responded with a smile and a single word: "Yes."

The First Day 5K race, a little over 3 miles, was organized by the Richmond Road Runners club and hosted by the ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center at 11621 Robious Roadin the Midlothian area.

A key partner was United Athletics, a Chesterfield-based group that works to get people with disabilities outside and active.

"The biggest thing is making friendships," said Beth Trebour, the group's founder.

This was the fourth year for the First Day 5K at ACAC, but it was the second involving United Athletics and the first to get help from the Manchester wrestlers, officials said. Team members, coaches and some friends took turns pushing the strollers.

About 500 people raced, including the four assisted athletes.

For the record, the first to finish was Kevin Peggs, who ran the course at 16 minutes, 22 seconds.

Many racers wore grimaces, but Trebour's daughter, Jenna, beamed as four wrestlers took turns pushing her. Jenna, 18, has cerebral palsy.

"The whole time, she was giggling and just having a blast," said Aaron Causey, 15, a 182-pound-class wrestler who helped push her stroller. "It feels good to help her have a good time."

Bill Kelly of the Richmond Road Runners, the director of the race, said of the assisted athletes: "They want to run, they want to be out there, and they like it when you go fast."

rspringston@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6453

January 3, 2014
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