A last place finish to remember

A last place finish to remember

I am indebted to Jeri Stracner from Carlisle and Pat Grenier for this column because I, unfortunately, did not witness the best part of the 5K Born to Run Walk/Run Saturday morning.

<div class="source">Photo courtesy of Jeri Stracner</div><div class="image-desc">Kristen Crawford crosses the finish line to the sound of cheers and applause in her first ever 5K run.</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="http://web2.lcni5.com/cgi-bin/c2newbuyphoto.cgi?pub=081&amp;orig=viewpoint_5krun.jpg" target="_new">Buy this photo</a></div>

While I’m not blessed with powers to predict the future — not even the soon-to-be future — I still hate missing the good stuff when it happens.
And the story about the end of the 2014 Born to Run 5K, folks, is about the really, really good stuff.
The run/walk, sponsored annually by the Cynthiana-Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, was wrapping up. Awards were being presented to the top finishers in the numerous gender and age categories, but not every participant had yet crossed the finish line.
There was somebody quite special completing the run in last place.
Kristen Crawford, from Carlisle, is the 32-year-old niece of Jeri and Mike Stracner and has cerebral palsy.
I am acquainted with Kristen because of my friendship with the Stracners, but I can’t say that I know her all that well.
When I would see her in the company of the Stracners or with her grandfather, Billy Dale Crawford, the thing I noticed most was that Kristen smiled a lot and seemed always to be in good spirits.
But that was almost a decade ago.
According to Jeri, a few years ago, Kristen was living in her own apartment and she wasn’t very happy.
“She was wallowing in excuses as to why she couldn’t go outside for a walk or get any kind of exercise,” Jeri explained.
Kristen’s personal malaise was affecting her health, Jeri said, and she wasn’t taking steps to change the course her life was heading.
Concerned, the Stracners decided to move Kristen into their home.
“We taught her about healthy eating. We encouraged daily walks. She went from a size 22 to a size 8,” Jeri said.
The 5k run, however, was Kristen’s first.
According to Jeri, Kristen was nervous. The farthest Kristen had ever walked before was two miles and now she was attempting to take on a five kilometer hike with only her walker for support.
She entered the race with a t-shirt that read “Excuses Suck.” Despite that show of determination, “she said before the race that her heart was pounding.”
It took Kristen longer than anyone else to complete the race. In fact, Grenier was already handing out awards to the finishers when she saw Kristen approaching the finish line.
And that, folks, is when the good stuff happened. I had already peeled off to take photos of the Big Feet, Little Feet walk, unaware of Kristen’s participation in the 5K. But then, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the poignancy of the moment.
Grenier halted the awards ceremony and everyone that had remained applauded and cheered as Kristen crossed the finish line.
“She told me that nothing but will power got her through the 5K,” Stracner said. “She is so proud of her accomplishment. It boosted her confidence and taught her that she can accomplish most anything, even though her body doesn’t cooperate very well.”
Congratulations to Kristen for a terrific finish and a warm smile, heck, maybe even a hug, to all those who made a last place finish the greatest of all the victories that day.

I got the “moving-my-kid-into-college” blues

I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to move my hostdaughter into her University of Kentucky dorm room last Saturday morning.

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This has been a very event-filled summer for Pam and I as hosts of high school exchange students for the past five years.
For reasons good and, in one case, tragic, this summer, four of our five hostdaughters have returned to their Kentucky home for a period of time.
Because Pam and I have no children of our own, we have a tendency to form strong bonds with these young women and have worked to extend our relationships beyond the exchange year.
Our efforts, apparently, have paid off.
Iris, our first hostdaughter, has spent the entire summer with us. She is doing a work internship until the end of September.
Lea, our youngest from Switzerland, completed her school year at Nicholas County and returned home.
She has vowed to return, and I believe her.
Lotta came back for a week to wish a dear friend rest.
But with the beginning of the new school year, Pam and I are taking a break from hosting a high school student. That does not mean a quiet household, though. Maria, our hostdaughter from Norway, enjoyed her time in Kentucky so much that she has enrolled as a freshman at UK.
If I examined this closely, I think this is a thing Pam and I hoped would happen with one of our hostdaughters eventually. However, on even closer inspection, my wife and I may have wanted this to happen for different reasons.
At least that is the impression I have when I reflect on my unanticipated reaction when we were packing the car Saturday morning to take Maria to her dorm.
It began when Iris and I were figuring out the best way to pack Maria’s dorm stuff in the back of my Ford Escape. Stacking cardboard boxes on top of each other, I found myself recalling how I managed to fit five wooden crates of records, a stereo system and a whole dorm room’s worth of other junk into the back of my Nissan Sentra.
I even bragged to no one in particular about how there was only room for myself in the driver’s seat when I finished.
Arriving on campus, we followed the signs guiding us to Maria’s dorm, unloaded her belongings to a long table, then moved everything in. My first thought upon entering the room was how I would decorate ….
No, wait, that’s not accurate. My first thought was that of a middle-aged curmudgeon thinking about how easy kids have it today, what with a room already equipped with a kitchen sink, microwave oven, stainless steel mini-fridge with attached freezer, and its own full bathroom. And a private bedroom with a mattress that wasn’t a lumpy back hazard!
But my impulse afterward was to start suggesting the best way to lay out the room – the way I would do it. A tapestry across the ceiling, some cool posters, maybe a futon…
And, if she was smart, what she should do next is … at which point I have to give myself credit.
I suppressed that impulse.
In the end, I did the smart thing. I got the heck on back home.
It still didn’t stop me wondering what she was doing, who she was meeting, wishing I could be there to warn her against all the mistakes she’ll make, and being jealous, too. How I’d love to experience the fear and uncertainty that comes with being young and on your own for the first time.
(Okay, I just wish I was young…)
These were my feelings for a young lady I have only known for two or three years. I can only imagine how parents moving their child … sorry, kids, I can’t think of a better term … into a college dorm or apartment for the first time.
Like I said, I didn’t imagine how difficult it would be to keep my mouth shut and let this experience be hers — not mine.
How I would love to be her college guide so that she makes the most of her years at the University. But there is a point where I have to let her make her own mistakes …

That’s going to be hard.

A champion, among many, of the little people

A champion, among many, of the little people

Kentucky athlete Tim Murray can be easily considered one of the most accomplished, successful and least known athletes in Kentucky.
Which is odd, really. He makes a remarkable first impression. And it has very little to do with that fact that he’s a bit over four feet tall.

Photo courtesy of Tim Murray: Tim Murray displays excellent form for his bronze medal winning throw in discuss at DAAA National Games in San Diego
Photo courtesy of Tim Murray:
Tim Murray displays excellent form for his bronze medal winning throw in discuss at DAAA National Games in San Diego

As an athletic trainer and physical therapy assistant at Harrison Memorial Hospital in Cynthiana, Kentucky and at Paris High School, Murray has contact with people who are often surprised by his appearance — at first.
For example, when he started as an athletic trainer at Paris High School, the athletes were often shy when they first met him. Murray exhibits such an affable and confident personality, he quickly gains people’s trust.
“People are nervous about what to say when they meet me. Especially those who’ve never met a little person before,” Murray said. “But they get used to me pretty quickly.”
In addition to his friendly demeanor and genuine desire to help people, Murray is a driven athlete. It is this personality attribute that has influenced his career choices and set the foundation for his athletic endeavors.
In 2009 at the World Dwarf Games in Belfast, Ireland, Murray set a world record for athletes of his category with a bench press of 286 pounds. He was a graduate student at Murray State University at the time, earning a masters degree in human development and leadership.
For the last 11 years, Murray earned a gold medal in his division of shotput from the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA) national games.
That streak of gold, however, came to an end at the DAAA 2014 National Open in San Diego earlier this month. He was edged out of the top spot on the podium by a good friend from the United Kingdom, he said, and had to console himself with a silver medal.
“It’s a wake up call,” Murray said. After winning the gold in his shotput category during the 2013 World games in East Lansing, Michigan, the 27-year-old athlete worries that he may have become complacent.

At the 2014 nationals he won a silver medal in shotput, and bronze medals in javelin, discus, and team boccia. Murray accepts that these results are notable.
But it was the first time that he did not earn at least one gold medal in track and field events and that chafes on him a bit.
Murray has been actively competing in DAAA events since he was nine years old.
He was born and raised in Edgewood, Kentucky.
He comes by his love for sports naturally. His father and brother both played baseball through their college years and have continued to be active. His sister is a distance runner and enjoys competing in “tough mudders” marathons these days, he said.
Being a competitor is a Murray family trait, he said.Though he is the only little person in his family, he was never discouraged from participating in sports.
“The only thing my doctor said was ‘no football.’ Other than that, I was involved in any sport that interested me,” Murray said.
At Scott High in Covington, he played baseball and was on the swim team. There was no special concessions made for him. He played at the same level as his taller peers.
“I had to earn my way on the field the same as anyone else,” he said. When he became a Scott High freshman, being a little person was no longer a novelty among his friends and teammates. They had known him all their lives.
“My friends have no sympathy for me at all. When we played, man, they did not hold back,” Murray said with a laugh.
Despite the opportunity to play at the high school level, Murray appreciates what the DAAA gives to athletes like himself.
“I’m very lucky to have been a member of the DAAA chapter in Greater Cincinnati,” he said.
In the world of the dwarf athletics association, all ages and all body types are given a chance to compete on a level playing field with their peers.
DAAA national games coincide with the Little People of America (LPA) annual conventions. The DAAA national open, which began in 1986, has become very popular and the competition more intense as the numbers of athletes increase.
Murray excels in individual events, but he’s also a team member in basketball, soccer and volleyball.
The games only last five days and are quite a test of an athlete’s stamina. In team events, the games are all played within the span of a single day, Murray said. If a team gets to a medal game in soccer or basketball, for example, they have usually played five to six consecutive games.
“It’s a real iron man type competition. I am glad to see old friends, but by the end of nationals I am wiped out,” Murray said.
It has been personally gratifying to witness the national and world games grow larger with each succeeding year and he hopes to still be a competitor when the events start attracting major commercial sponsors.
These games are very important, he said, especially for children who are diagnosed with some form of dwarfism.
“It’s a gene thing. But small children are already challenged with just being different. Being able to compete and succeed in sports at any level, helps them accept and love who they are,” Murray said.
Murray is already starting training to return to his place at the top of the podium for shotput.
And while he’s at it, he might as well get another for discuss.