Wheeling Central’s Cooper Blair, the Maroon Knights’ First Blade Runner, Has Big Goals in Mind

Photo by Kyle Lutz Wheeling Central’s Cooper Blair, right, runs toward the finish of the 100 during the Dick Dei Track Classic.

WHEELING — Cooper Blair has faced more adversity and obstacles than most could say they have. However, with the mindset Blair has, it would give anyone the motivation to get out there and run a lap on the track.

Blair, a freshman member of Wheeling Central’s track team, runs the 100 and 200 and is the school’s first blade runner. That’s because he was born with Anatomic Band Syndrome.

Cooper described it as the fluid in the womb wrapped around his legs. That restricted the blood flow and his parents made the decision when he was two years old to have them amputated.

Blair, who also played basketball for the Maroon Knights this past winter, got his first taste of what it’s like to run at the high school level.

In his first high school race, he placed 14 out of 24 runners in the 100 in a time of 13.41 at the Steubenville Early Bird Invitational.

In his most recent outing at the Dick Dei Track Classic at Wheeling Park on April 13, he clocked in with a 12.44

He also ran the 200 and timed in at 25.95.

“I started running when I was 9,” Blair said. “I ran a little bit around the country in middle school, but now starting high school, it’s pretty challenging. There’s a lot of big kids a lot of huge meets, but it’s going to be a fun experience. I like it.

“The transition (from middle school to high school) has been pretty tough. There’s a lot more competition and a lot of bigger kids, especially since I’m a freshman and I’m running against seniors. But it takes work and I think I’ll be good for the next couple of years. The people have been nice and always root for me. It’s been pretty fun.”

No, he wasn’t exaggerating when he said he ran around the country. In fact, he has run in a few Paralympic events in Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles.

“It was a really cool experience,” Cooper said. “That was really cool and Los Angeles was amazing. That was a beautiful track. It was at UCLA and everywhere I have gone has been a really good experience for me.”

One of Blair’s greatest accomplishments came when he was competing in Fort Wayne at the Adaptive Sports USA 2018 Junior Nationals last summer.

The accomplishments were so great, in fact that they were not only personal records for himself, but something to a much bigger caliber.

“When I went to Indiana, I set the record out of everyone there of the amputees in those events,” Blair said.

The speedster said that he clocked in around 12.35 in the 100 and 25.50 in the 200.

“He’s only a freshman, but he does everything as a coach you want in an athlete,” Wheeling Central track coach Eric Belancic said. “He comes to practice every day, he busts his butt, he warms up stretches and does his thing. He never complains. He does everything you ask and works his hardest that he possibly can. If anything, he’s asked to do more than what he does. And as a coach, when you have a freshman like that setting an example for the rest of the people, people notice that and they respond to it.

“For him to show that as a freshman is pretty awesome.”

Blair, though has his eyes set on a bigger prize. And with the times he posted last summer, those in fact might help him get his foot in the door. As he finishes up his first year of high school track, Blair will keep training, hoping he has the chance to run outside of the United States.

“I’m trying to set good PRs, probably get around 11 in the 100,” Blair said on his some of his goals. “And some of my upcoming goals, I’m trying to go to Tokyo for the upcoming National Paralympics. It takes place every four years just like the Olympics. This will be my first year I’m old enough to compete. So I hope that I’m selected to that to get to run and represent Team USA.”

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