Conner Update

“I

n May of 2023, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology (B.KIN). From 2018-2023, I competed as an integrated athlete on the Varsity Track and Field Team. I competed under Head Coach Laurier Primeau and Events Coach David Douglas within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

My final event competing for this team was at the Mount SAC Relays, where I ran against athletes with disabilities in the collegiate division, and then against athletes with disabilities in the Paralympics Division.

In addition to Mount SAC, my highest level of competition against fully able-bodied collegiate athletes brought me to the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships multiple times, in 2019 and 2022. I am one of the only known athletes with CP in the history of the UBC Track and Field Varsity program, and possibly am the only one.

I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sports Management from the University of Michigan. While in this program, I have been research, presentations, and projects on multiple major sports brands including Nike, Adidas, Puma, and the Detroit Pistons. I am also a member of the University of Michigan’s Adaptive Track and Field Team, which is structured in a similar way to an NCAA program, but with an emphasis on serving athletes with disabilities. The University of Michigan’s Adaptive Track and Field program aims to create a parallel experience to that of the NCAA Division-I athletes. In 2023, I traveled with my dad, John, and the University of Michigan’s Adaptive Track and Field Team to Chula Vista, California, for the US Paralympics National Championships. At this competition, I placed 1st in my Paralympic Classification in the 100M and 400M distances. As of right now, I compete in the T36 Classification. Athletes in the T36 Classification have various disabilities that affect their motor control, muscle power, and coordination, among other things. These athletes usually have Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and similar impairments. I continued to compete under the University of Michigan at several more competitions over the summer, including the Desert Challenge Para-Games in Phoenix, Arizona, the Angel City Games in Los Angeles, California, and the Move United US Championships in Hoover, Alabama. I have competed under the coaching talents of Program Directors and Coaches like Dr. Feranmi Okanlami, Erik Robeznieks, Calvin Sullins, Christopher Kelly, Henry Johnson, Coach Steve, Devon Van Rensburg, and Jacob Pettinga.

In October of 2023, US Paralympics Track and Field selected its ParaPan-American Games Team. This is an international event recognized by World Para-Athletics that happens every 4 years and contests nations from North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean Islands in a major athletic competition. US Paralympics Track and Field selects the team that will go to this competition by assessing the strongest performances in the country throughout the season, and selecting the top athletes across all the disability groups.

At the time the US Team lineup was assembled I was originally the “1st Alternate” Athlete on this team, which meant that if anyone dropped off the team for any reason, I would be the next athlete chosen.

I applied for this team all the way back in June of 2023. In October of the same year, a previously-selected American athlete voluntarily withdrew from the competition earlier this week. I was the next athlete in line, and was moved up onto the competition roster for Team USA. So, after everything, I was officially nominated to compete with Team USA after all. I found out in early October, and ultimately represented the United States at the ParaPan-American Games at the T36 100M and T36 400M.

By some of the smallest margins I have personally experienced, I made it onto Team USA. They subsequently added a few more athletes to the team, but at the time of my selection, I was the final one. I believe the final number of athletes who attended the Games from the US was 63-64.

While at the games, I was a Finalist at both distances, and I ran to a 6th place finish in the 400M, and a 7th place finish in the 100M. I competed against athletes from countries like Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and the Dominican republic. While competing, I utilized a “hand block” to even myself out because my left arm doesn’t lock out all the way. That is my primary piece of adaptive equipment that I use in competitions like this. I really put everything on the line, and I valued this opportunity a lot. Knowing that I had been on the bubble for making this team before, I can hardly describe the adrenaline I felt lining up against some of the fastest Para-Athletes on this side of the world. The atmosphere was absolutely electric.

I think this example shows that we owe it to ourselves to run all the way to the tape. If I had slowed up in any of my races during the 2023 season, it’s unlikely that I would have made the Team. In all things, if we can push ourselves to find just a bit more, to lay down just a bit more effort, to think differently about how we approach challenging tasks, it often pays off. I think this principle extends to beyond the field of competition. It’s true for school, for everyday on-the-job tasks, for the quality of our healthcare and education services. Sometimes, stepping our game up just a bit more can make an incredible difference.”