By John Bombatch
Grace Norman set a new International Paralympic Committee world record for the 1,500-meter run, at Saturday’s Vandalia Butler Invitational track and field meet.
Norman, a senior at Xenia Christian High School, was making her 2016 outdoor track and field debut. She currently holds world-record times in the 1,500, the 400 and the 800 for T-44 (below knee amputee) women.
On Saturday, Butler Invitational officials and the competing coaches agreed to shorten the girls mile run to 1,500 meters (the official IPC competing distance), in order to give Norman a chance to improve upon her existing world-record time of 4:58.68.
She had set the mark last year while running alone at the Fast Cow Invitational track meet in Indianapolis. Saturday’s race was the first that she’d run the 1,500 distance with a full field of runners. Not just a full field, but a full field of able bodied competition.
“I was really nervous coming into this, I didn’t think I would do that well. Emma Bryant from Butler said she would pace me and that calmed me down by knowing I would have someone there with me. It was awesome having her there. It was incredible the way the crowd got behind me,” Norman said.
Troy’s Morgan Gigandet won the 31-runner event with a time of 4:45.53. Norman finished second in 4:52.16 to beat the previous world mark by 6.52 seconds, and Bryant placed third (5:06.98).
“Earlier this week I ran some 400s (meters) and I was really pushing hard to get under 1:20 for a 400, which made me very concerned for today. But having this atmosphere — having the other runners support me — helped me. I couldn’t have done this without God’s strength. I’m very excited and pleased by my run today.”
Norman earned a spot on the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National team earlier this year. She is one of 17 women and 30 men (and the only competitor from Ohio) who will compete for the United States at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.