UNION COUNTY — Twenty four physically disabled junior athletes from across the country, including nine from New Jersey, participated Friday in a wheelchair track clinic led by Adam Bleakney, head coach of the University of Illinois wheelchair track team.
Bleakney, who was the 2007 and 2013 Paralympic National Coach of the Year, worked the athletes through a variety of drills over the course of the two-day intensive clinic. Each drill addressed a specific element of wheelchair track: starts, rolling acceleration, top speed and handling turns.
"We cover everything dealing with wheelchair racing and the specific skills necessary to be successful on the track." Bleakney said.
The clinic held at Warinanco Park in Roselle and sponsored by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) was free for participants.
Stephen Koziel, an 18-year-old athlete from Kearny, trains with Children's Specialized Hospital's "Children's Lightning Wheels" a junior wheelchair athletic program for individuals with a physical disability ages 5–22.
Koziel said the clinic is an amazing opportunity for athletes looking to learn new techniques.
"These drills have given me the opportunity to start practicing race tactics." Koziel said. "Adam is one of the best coaches in the nation to learn from." he added
This September, Koziel will attend the University of Illinois and plans on majoring in psychology. He will also train with Bleakney.
These same athletes, along with more than 200 other physically disabled athletes — the top high school age juniors from across the county — will compete in the 2015 National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC) from July 18 to July 24. Qualifying athletes will compete in Paralympic style events such as archery, swimming, powerlifting, pentathlon track and field.
All events will be held in Union County.
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