Adaptive athlete at Wake Forest High School blazes trail for other students

Tuesday, July 12, 2022
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Jillian Wiedner's trek to the track was never likely, but that makes it all the more fulfilling.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jillian Wiedner's trek to the track was never likely.

She was born without an ACL in her right knee and another genetic difference that would affect her for the rest of her life. So her parents never imagine that the rising junior would gravitate toward sports.

"I didn't see it coming," her mom Heather said. "We aren't even a family big on sports."

Wiedner's proved to be anything but typical, especially given her circumstances. After learning about Bridge II Sports at an elementary school presentation, Jillian began participating in practices and eventually events, using a wheelchair to maneuver, whether on the track or on the basketball court.

"I started joining the practices, and I thought it was really fun," Jillian explained.

Once she reached high school, she would begin to set her own path. Jillian joined the Wake Forest High School track team, and was excited to know that she could earn points for her team thru her newfound passion. She would take unopposed state championships in both her freshman and sophomore years on the track. But the best part for Jillian, is the potential for what her event can become for those like her.

"(There was) one last year and then two this year, just think about next year! Like how many students are going to join next year?," Jillian said.

Bridge II Sports founder Ashley Thomas said stories like Jillian's are among the reasons she began the initiative.

"It always warms my heart when I see these young people get confidence, and they don't identify as being disabled, but they know how to live well with disability," she said.

Already headed into 11th grade, Jillian is looking for colleges who might potentially give her options as far as adaptive sports.

"So far, the closest one to here is Auburn," she said. She hopes that colleges in and around the state begin to open their doors to adaptive athletes.