Jay Denning and Zion Redington travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana this week to compete against the best para-athletes in the nation in their continuing quest to be Paralympians in the future.
Several local area organizations are sponsoring their trip to Fort Wayne. Twine Graphics and Screen Printing in downtown Franklin is hosting a send off party at 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17, at 108 Century Court in Franklin.
The Junior National Championships are hosted annually by Adaptive Sports USA, founded in 1956 to help athletes with disabilities including veterans of World War II. The association has grown since then into a comprehensive sports organization for all individuals with physical disabilities. Able-bodied athletes compete against each other in one large group. Para-athletes are evaluated by medical staff and are classified by Paralympic standards according to their physical disabilities.
Jay Denning, age 14, was born with lumbosacral agenesis and is missing three vertebrae. He competes in specialized wheelchairs for his events. In 2017, he set the national record in javelin for his classification and age group at the Endeavor Games, a regional competition in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He set a new record in the same event during his 2018 return to the Endeavor Games. His performance qualified him to compete on the national level next week. Jay qualified for and will compete in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m on the track as well as javelin, discus, and shot put.
Franklin resident Zion Redington, age 12, was born with ectrodactyly — one finger on each hand and one toe on each foot. He had both feet amputated at age six. He competes on prosthetic legs. He has competed in four regional competitions and qualified for the nationals before. This is the first time he will be able to travel and compete. Zion qualified for and will compete in the 100m on the track, long jump, shot put, discus, and javelin. He will also swim in the 25m and 50m Freestyle and 25m and 50m Breaststroke.
“I am honored to represent the state of Tennessee,” Zion said. “It’s pretty cool to have all these businesses and people come around me to get to the Junior Nationals.”
Both athletes are part of ABLE Youth — Athletes Building Life Experiences — where they learn independence, life skills, and more. “I’m so proud of the progress that Jay and Zion have made in both their independence and their athletics. We started taking athletes to meets last year, and these two young men have put in a lot of hard work to learn and excel at these events. Trips like this not only highlight that they are incredible athletes but that they can independently navigate traveling and functioning in a hotel. Jay and Zion serve as role models to our other kids who have aspirations of their own to be successful and independent.”