Keene State runner China-bound as Paralympian
Keene State junior track team member Sabra Hawkes, who was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy, is one of 44 athletes nominated to the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team that will compete in the Paralympic Games during September in China.
She won the 100-meter dash and placed second in the 200-meter race during qualifying at Arizona State
“After four years of dreaming of the day my name would be added to the Beijing roster, it's finally a reality,” she said. “I don't have to just dream about it anymore.”
More than 4,000 elite athletes with a physical disability from around the world are expected to compete in the games. The United States will field a team of 206 athletes competing in 18 sports.
Hawkes began running during her sophomore year in high school, entering a meet for athletes with disabilities because her school didn’t have a track and field program. She soon found a coach and embarked on a daily training regimen, eventually competing as an unattached athlete in college meets alongside able-bodied entrants.
“We knew she liked to run, so we wanted to give her the opportunity,” said her father, Brett Hawkes. “She seized the opportunity and ran with it.”
She already had competed internationally before joining the Keene State program two years ago, having raced in the CP World Championships and Para-World Championships. Last fall, she won a gold medal in the 200-meter run and silver in the 100-meter dash and set American records at the Para-Pan American Games in Brazil.
Keene State coach Peter Thomas calls Hawkes one his hardest working athletes.
“I give her the same workouts as everybody else, and she never blinks an eye,” he said.
“Running at this level is such a blessing to me because I get to wake up every day and do what I love to do,” Hawkes said. “The drive comes from knowing that running makes me happy, and having the ability to compete with the best in the world is a gift."
Hawkes will spend the rest of the summer preparing for the Paralympic Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in San Diego, California. In addition to her track and weight workouts, she also hopes to compete in a few more meets before leaving with the team in August for Beijing.
But that schedule means she will be a little late returning to campus this fall. “I hope my professors understand. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.
“I'm definitely happy with what I've accomplished,” said Hawkes, who is considering sociology or psychology as majors at Keene State. “I get to be on teams, travel, and get to meet a lot of awesome, really inspirational people. I want to do this as long as I can.”
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association