Even before the first Lone Star race began last weekend, the organizers and participants celebrated a big win. In addition to the Lone Star Half Marathon and the Mayor’s 5K, the first ever First Annual Lone Star Para Invitational made its debut, attracting athletes from across Texas.
“It’s the only one of its kind in the state,” said Shea Needham, the one-woman powerhouse behind the Lone Star events.
On your marks
A track and field meet for school-aged children with physical disabilities, the Lone Star Para Invitational is a direct result of the success of previous years’ Lone Star races. At the conclusion of last year’s Lone Star, Needham considered ways to make the most impact with the proceeds raised. She immediately turned to her long-standing partners – and Lone Star benefactor -- at Arlington Independent School District (AISD).
“Kevin Ozee, AISD athletic director, and I knew we wanted to make the greatest impact with the money we raised. We considered coaches clinics and equipment, but we decided to go with a para- track and field meet for student with disabilities. Clinic, equipment and other stuff will definitely be in the future, but the track meet has an immediate impact and one that could grow over the years. It just made sense.”
It makes great sense, particularly because Texas UIL now has wheelchair divisions in high school track and field. Helping younger athletes prepare for that level of competition takes time and intention. That, says Needham, is where the Lone Star Para Invitational comes in. “We want young athletes to be there so they can get exposure to the sport and see that playing sports is possible for them,” she said.
Building a tradition in Downtown
Last weekend marked the 6th year of the Lone Star in Arlington, and the fourth year of the half marathon. The race started out as a 5K/10K and is the only half marathon held in the city.
Participants of all skill levels take part in the Lone Star Half Marathon and Mayor’s 5K: from adaptive athletes and elite athletes to run/walkers and children. Because of Arlington’s convenient location in DFW, the Lone Star events draws participants from near and far. “I think people enjoy running through the entertainment district and UT Arlington,” said Needham. “The course is continually changing because the landscape of Arlington is changing.”
Since 2015, Downtown Arlington has been the epicenter of the Lone Star events. “Since making that move,” Needham said, “I think the race has a hometown feel and is more reflective of the community. It showcases downtown and the city in a unique way. I’ve seen more and more runners from Arlington register of the years, which has been pretty exciting!”
Although Needham is the sole organizer of the Lone Star, she’s quick to credit others. “I couldn't do this every year without the help and support of my vendors and the Arlington Fire, Police and other City departments. After six years of working with them, I’ve developed great friendships, and they have come to share my passion for the race and athletes with disabilities.”
In particular, Needham credits Ozee and AISD for their vision and dedication to building an adaptive athletic program in the district. “Kevin Ozee doesn't believe in coaching sports, he believes in coaching student athletes. When I approached him about high school students with disabilities being part of their high school teams, he said, ‘Let's do one better. Let's be the district other school district model.’”
That's all she needed to hear. And we can’t wait to see what Shea Needham does next.
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An official State of Texas Cultural District, Downtown Arlington, Texas blends a unique mix of activities, sights, tastes and sounds that attract visitors and locals alike. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to a top tier public research university, prolific fine and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate. Downtown Arlington brings together a plethora of cultures and inspirations with a character all its own.