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Let 'Em Play



Kurt Axene (Self)Teylor Becher (Self)Michelle Cross (Self)Michael Seo (Self)


Scott Marshutz



After California adopts rules for disabled high school athletes, four try to make the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team. Their journey is a roller-coaster ride of injuries, rule changes and questionable management decisions. Following the 2012 London games, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee's (USOPC) goal was to increase access to (and participation in) Paralympics sports. USOPC set their sites on three states: Ohio, Texas and California. Their mission: to teach administrators, advocates, coaches, etc., how to integrate para athletics into an established high school sports program. California adopted rules allowing high school athletes to participate and earn points for their teams in track & field and swimming events. The athletes profiled in the film: Kurt Axene, Irvine; Teylor Becher, Long Beach; Michelle Cross, Rancho Santa Margarita; and Michael Seo, Escondido; were selected based on their willingness to participate in the project; their disability, event and the communication they received from USP following the first CIF season. Who could advance the farthest as they got classified in the WPA-IPC system and competed in the U.S. and internationally while trying to improve their performances from an "emerging standard" into "B" and finally the "A" standard in their respective classification and events? A para athlete's goal is to hit the "A" standard and make the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field World Team. Michelle Cross, who specializes in the 100m and 200m events, was selected to the Junior World Team and the Para Pan American Team in 2019. According to U.S. Paralympic officials, this is the path an athlete needs to be on if he or she hopes to make the U.S. World Team. We meet and follow these athletes before they're out of high school. Prior to the state adding the para division, they played in the shadows competing as best they could next to their able-bodied teammates. There was no incentive for them; they were simply going through the motions to fulfill school requirements. Each one carves a unique path to achieving their Paralympic goals, but along the way they hit obstacles, creating drama and uncertainty. The story arcs when unforeseen circumstances knock Kurt Axene (cerebral palsy) out of his sport classification altogether and he withdraws from competition. Michael Seo (neuroblastoma) must make the difficult choice of sticking with the sport he loves (wheelchair basketball) or switching full time to wheelchair track racing. Seo's relationship with his high school track coach Denaryle Williams is interesting, considering Williams is visually impaired. This leaves the two female sprinters Michelle Cross (cerebral palsy) and Teylor Becher (brachial plexus injury) who still have a chance of making the World Team in 2020. Cross and Becher were cross country runners in high school but had to become sprinters in order to qualify for the CIF state meet. Their stories are a study in contrast and viewers are likely to get behind one or the other, if not both. They are young female disabled athletes setting a positive example and blazing a trail for others. After high school, Becher enrolls at Southwestern College and joins the women's track team coached by former Olympic hurdler Tonie Campbell. Campbell, who also coaches Paralympic medalist Scout Bassett, sees potential in Becher and develops her into a long jump specialist. Meanwhile, all the stars seem perfectly aligned for Michelle Cross who gets accepted to San Diego State University. Two years earlier the Cross family meets Ahkeel Whitehead. Whitehead, a former U.S. Paralympian (cerebral palsy) who competed in the 2016 Rio games, advises Cross's parents on what Michelle needs to do to achieve her Paralympic goals. Meanwhile, Whitehead is preparing to launch California's first collegiate-level adaptive sports program at SDSU. Cross becomes the first para athlete accepted into the new program; the announcement generates tons of local press. Once Beche