YGC: High school cross country in a wheelchair - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

YGC: High school cross country in a wheelchair

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by Danielle Wagner

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Jonathan Litzkow is a runner... in his own way.

Litzkow is a member of Waterloo West High's Cross Country Team. He runs the same course as his teammates, he just doesn't use his legs. Instead he uses wheels and his arms.

Litzkow said he joined the team to get in better shape for track.

"It's a lot tougher. I'll put it that way. The hills are something different, more of a challenge," said Jonathan Litzkow.

Litzkow admits not many people would take on this challenge.

"They say I'm crazy. They ask if I'm nuts basically," Litzkow said.

He's not nuts, just determined. The sophomore said he needs to be challenged and his coach and teammates agree.

"I really can't say enough about what he does. He never complains. He's fun to have around," said Coach Matt MacKenzie.

"This kid, for him, there's no limits. I mean he can go so far and if he puts his mind to it, he can do it," said friend and teammate Michael Greve.

For the time being, Litzkow is using a road racer. It's more aerodynamic with three wheels. It has steering and tilted tires. It's also lightweight, made of aluminum.

But the goal is to raise money to get a hand crank chair which is similar to a bicycle with different gears. That will make hitting the cross country course much easier.

Litzkow is just one of the guys on the team, out to compete. But he knows in a chair there's a risk of injury.

"You never know what's going to happen with the grass, especially you can't see the holes in the ground. Downhill you could hit something and fall out or just push it up the hill and flip over going up. You just have to get that fear out of the way," Litzkow said.

He's put the fear aside and is ready for the 5K and beyond.

"He has big goals going to college and beyond. I think he's athletic enough he can definitely give it a good shot," said Coach MacKenzie.

Litzkow's ultimate goal is to compete in the Paralympics for track. But for now, he hopes to inspire others in chairs.

"I want it to catch on. I want people in chairs to challenge themselves and get people in chairs out and doing something," he said.

You can support the Waterloo West boys and girls cross country teams at their home meet on Thursday, September 30. The race is at Bontrager Park off West 9th Street. It begins at 4:30 p.m.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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