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Wheelchair Athletes Will Score Points at XO Invite: Brandon Caswell Chases State Record
4/15/06 - - by Kevin Ullman

Brandon Caswell, 2005 XO Invite 100 & 1500 Wheelchair Champion

History has been made once at the XO Invite when Kacey McCallister set the State Record in the Wheelchair 1500.  Does Brandon Caswell have the stuff to take down his predecessor.

Hayward Field, EUGENE, OR - 4/15/06 –“It was easily one of the best moments of all our great XO Invite moments,” reminisces Meet Director Ross Krempley as he sifts through this year’s 1300 entries, a computer mouse in one hand, a Red Bull in the other, “for all our great athletes, performances, and moments, this one is definitely up there.” 

Back at the first annual XO Invite, which seems an eternity ago, Krempley had the idea of including several wheelchair races in the meet, “I knew there were enough wheelchair athletes to fill the lanes for at least one heat of a race.”  A call to Kevin Hansen of World Wheelchair Sports, who has the beat on the local high school wheelchair talent, and the coed wheelchair 100 and 1500 meter races were born. 

“We didn’t know what to expect really,” said Krempley, “we thought we’d see some kids enjoying the Hayward Field atmosphere, even get some PRs, but I don’t think anybody was prepared for what happened when the gun went off.”  When the World Wheelchair truck unloaded its precious cargo, a small crowd gathered in wonder at the sleek, low-profile racing machines and the athletes climbing into them.  Curious eyes watched as they made their way out to the track for their warm-up session.  After a few “strides” the athletes gathered at the 1500 meter starting line. 

Now, the start of a wheelchair race may leave something to be desired as the athletes slowly build their speed around the first lap, but it is also quickly forgotten when they reach their race pace, and the smooth flowing downward thrusts on the wheels send them gliding over the track at a beautiful speed.  Then, what started as a respectful applause turns into an on-your-feet-screaming-your-lungs-out thrill ride as these incredible athletes chase each other at speeds runners only dream about.  They use their body weight, in rhythm with their push-offs to adjust their alignment around the turns.  And they seem to be accelerating almost the entire race, as if it were somehow downhill. 

The leader of the race, Kacey McCallister, has not had such an easy downhill ride in his racing career.  The fall before his race at XO, Kacey challenged himself and his upright running competitors at the District Cross Country Championships that fall.  Are you ready for this?  He won.  Racing over grass and trail, he won and he met the qualifying standard to compete at the OSAA 4A State Cross Country Championship.  But to his dismay, he was not allowed to compete.  OSAA cited several safety concerns regarding a wheelchair athlete in a large competitive cross country race.  “It was a real shame; for such a great athlete to not be given the chance to compete on the state’s greatest stage, especially a talented high school athlete like Kacey,” says Krempley.  “We wanted to give him and other wheelchair athletes that opportunity at the XO Invite and an opportunity to compete for and score points for their teams.” 

Kacey got his chance, and literally rolled his way to a meet and state record that has stood since the inception of the meet – 3:32.35.  But now, another wheelchair athlete is breaking through to challenge Kacey’s record.  “I think Brandon [Caswell] is better than Kacey,” says Kevin Hansen, “if you can imagine that!”  Caswell, of Pendleton High School, already has tied McCallister’s 100 meter record of 16.09 at last year’s XO Invite.  He looks to eclipse both records this year as he has already wheeled a 16.03.  Caswell was fortunate enough to be invited by the Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association to compete at their State Cross Country meet.  Unfortunately, Caswell, who was competing in a new chair, crashed and was unable to complete the race, but he brings his training, as well as a solid 3k time (8:21.5) to the XO Invite ready to chase McCallister’s record.   

The athletes get other opportunities for competition besides the XO Invite: Kevin Hansen and World Wheelchair Sports host a wheelchair only track and field meet that will hopefully include upright athletes with disabilities next year.  The meet, held on April 1st, acts as a Regional Championships and attracted several dozen athletes of all ages from all over the state as they tried to meet qualifying standards for the National Championships.  Many of these unique athletes qualified for Nationals this year.  The meet hopes to feature middle and high school “stand up” kids next year, it will be called, “Wheels and Heels.” 

World Wheelchair Sports also provides a loaner program for the athletes that want to compete in OSAA high school athletics.  “Most of these families have huge medical bills as they support their disabled children,” said Hansen.  “I take and store [wheel]chairs from retired elite athletes who want to donate them; right now I have about 18 chairs out on loan and 6 more in the trailer.  Racing chairs are about $2500 a pop, so the loaner program really allows these kids to fulfill their dreams of competing in high school.” 

There will be another meet the first weekend of June in Seattle put on by Northwest Wheelchair Sports, but for now, the main focus is on the XO Invite.  Brandon Caswell will largely be considered the favorite in both events, but also watch for Zach Abbot (David Douglas), Gabe West (Summit), Zach Cloud (Bend), Caleb Kallapa (Columbia River), Walter Jones (COCC), John Roberts (LCC), and Rena Fowler (Kelly Middle School).  This will be a rare opportunity where the athletes will count toward the total team score and contribute just as much as any other athlete in the meet. 

Note: Kacey McCallister is now a scholarship athlete at the University of Arizona.  He plays basketball and track and was recently 10th at the Boston Marathon and was the 2nd fastest American.  Despite his not being allowed to compete at the OSAA State Cross Country Championships, Oregon remains at the forefront of wheelchair involvement in high school athletics across the nation. 

Kacey McCallister, 2004 XO Invite 100 & 1500 Wheelchair Champion
and 1500 State Record Holder

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Team XO - Second career for track athletes
EUGENE - They're former all-Americans, Pac-10 champs, and National champions who train and compete at Hayward field, but they're not Ducks, not anymore. What started as three guys and a boxes of t-shirts and a Dream, has turned into the track and field phenomenon "Team XO". "Its almost got a cultish following... || Watch Video

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Team XO was founded and created by former University of Oregon Track Athletes. We are located in Eugene, Oregon, home of historic Hayward Field and Track Town USA, as all of you already know. The team is comprised of primarily post collegiate athletes that train in the state of Oregon or graduated from the University of Oregon. Team XO has been created for elite post collegiate Track & Field / Cross Country athletes looking to continue their athletic career, while competing at the highest possible level. Although creation remains in the early stages, the vision is clear. We look to provide a home and unified team atmosphere where driven, elite athletes can work together to achieve success both individually and as a team. We are always looking to expand our team with even more talented athletes that share the same drive and passion that it takes to excel at the highest level. In doing this, we look to become the premier Track & Field Team in the Nation.

Off the track, field and trail, we try and extend our vision of the way we feel our sport should be. We host an elite team high school track meet at Hayward Field called the XO Invite, direct and coach a fun low cost athletic kid’s camp called the XO Athletic Camp, and volunteer hundreds of hours a year in our community.







This year's Invited Teams
Large Size Schools
David Douglas
Lewis and Clark
North Salem
South Eugene

Medium Size Schools
Catlin Gabel

Small Size Schools
Damascus Christian
Horizon Christian
Portland Waldorf

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