Beach to Beacon shining light: Teenage Cape Elizabeth wheelchair racer on inspirational course

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Like any teenager, Christina Kouros plays sports, hangs out with her friends and is enjoying the summer. She is a member of the Nordic ski and track teams at Cape Elizabeth High School, where she will be a junior this fall.

But Kouros, 16, is not a typical teenager.

She was born without a right leg, and is training for next week’s TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K.

Kouros lives on Shore Road with her parents, brother and sister, and can remember watching the racers pass by her house every summer since she was 10.

She said she grew up watching her sister play sports and while she would sometimes manage her teams, she wanted to be a part of a team.

So she joined the school’s track team as a freshman wheelchair athlete and then the Nordic ski team, where she uses a specialized sit-ski. She competed in her first wheelchair road race, the Harvard Pilgrim 10K in Foxborough, Mass., on July 4.

Now she is focused on the hometown race. She will compete with four other wheelchair athletes and has been getting up at 5 a.m. to train. She has a custom wheelchair and is getting used to the course.

“I really want to finish the race and make the people in my town proud,” Kouros said.

Her sister, Anastasia, helps Kouros train, pushing her to her full potential and acting as a motivator.

“Watching my sister do so well in Nordic and wheelchair racing has been such fun for me,” Anastasia said. “I really hope she makes it to the paralympics some day.”

But while Kouros is pushing herself in these races, she is also a motivation for other people in similar situations.

She said she recently met a 15-year-old girl with cancer who will lose her right leg. Kouros said she is dedicating the race to the girl, and will be there for her throughout her battle with the disease.

“Even though I inspire people, there are a lot of people who inspire me, too,” Kouros said. “It may be easier for me because I was born like this.”

Eric Topper, wheelchair coordinator for the TD Bank Beach to Beacon organizing committee, said he has thoroughly enjoyed working with Kouros.

He became involved when a few years ago Maine Handicapped Skiing was the beneficiary of the race. As the director of outreach for MHS , he worked closely with the Beach to Beacon organization, and said athletes in the wheelchair division fit well with the core principals of the race and what it represents.

Now, as the wheelchair coordinator, he works to expand the capacity of the wheelchair division. He said Kouros represents all three things he equates with the race: prestige, exclusivity and accessibility.

“Christina can be a great ambassador,” he said. “As a first-time racer with a significant disability, she will compete with the best athletes and have a respectable time. She is young and excited and local.”

Topper said having wheelchair athletes compete in a race as prestigious as the Beach to Beacon is “a huge deal.”

“It’s one thing for people with disabilities to have introductory opportunities to sports – that’s what makes MHS special,” he said. “But there are a number of people who want to be competitive and race and push themselves.”

And the Beach to Beacon is starting to figure out how to break down some of the barriers that hold challenged athletes back and balance the prestige and exclusivity of the race so someone like Kouros can compete, he said.

“At the end of that 40 minutes on that course … Christina will have the opportunity to check that off as a great accomplishment,” he said. “She is an inspiration for everybody else,” he said.

Kouros said she is excited to race on Aug. 6 and hopes to complete the race in 45 minutes. She said she will continue to Nordic ski and compete on the track team.

“When I first got to high school I thought I was going to be all about arts and crafts,” she said. “But I can do sports and be an athlete, too.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: amy_k_anderson.

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Christina Kouros, 16, of Cape Elizabeth, will compete in the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K on  Aug. 6 in the wheelchair division. She is dedicating her race to a 15-year-old girl who is losing a leg to cancer.

Race-day parking, road closures, shuttles

CAPE ELIZABETH — TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K participants are encouraged to arrive by 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 6 to avoid heavy traffic. Roadside parking is not allowed. Walkers, joggers, spectators or bicyclists must stay off the course after 8 a.m..

The following roads will be closed to traffic, except for shuttle buses:

• Route 77, Sprague Hall to Kettle Cove Road, 6-10 a.m.

• Route 77, Kettle Cove Road to Old Ocean House Road, 7:30-10 a.m.

• Crescent Beach State Park, 7:30-8:30 a.m.

• Route 77 at Hillway, 7:30-10 a.m.

• Old Ocean House Road, 7:30-10 a.m.

• Shore Road, Route 77 to Fort Williams, 7:30-11 a.m.

• Scott Dyer Road eastbound, 6:45-8 a.m.

• Fowler Road, 7:15-10 a.m.

Registration, B-tag and T-shirt pickup for confirmed runners will take place at Cape Elizabeth High School on Thursday, Aug. 4, from 4-8 p.m. and on Friday, Aug. 5, from 2:30-8 p.m.

Race-day runner drop-off is at the Gull Crest Fields parking lot, half a mile from the intersection of Spurwink Road and Route 77. Runners are required to be at the start line by 7:30 a.m.

Runner parking near the start line will be provided at the Sprague fields at Fowler and Ram Island Farm roads. Parking for runners is also available at Cape Elizabeth High School and Cape Elizabeth Middle School on a first-come basis. Runners will be shuttled from the parking lots to the start between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Carpooling is recommended.

Satellite parking and shuttle buses to the start line will also be provided at the parking lots at South Portland High School, 737 Highland Ave., and the Hannaford Bros. corporate offices, 145 Pleasant Hill Road, Scarborough. Shuttles will run from these locations to the start from 6:30-7:15 a.m.

Parking at Fort Williams is restricted to media, sponsors, staff and spectators, who should carpool and to arrive prior to 7:15 a.m.

For additional information visit beach2beacon.org.

Christina Kouros, right, of Cape Elizabeth, met Joan Benoit Samuelson at the recent Harvard Pilgrim 10K in Foxborough, Mass. Samuelson founded the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K road race in 1998. Kouros will participate in the race as a wheelchair athlete on Saturday, Aug. 6.

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