July 12, 2004
Nine-year-old Zach Wharton of Mesa is competing for the first time in the 2004 National Junior Disabled Sports Championships, which kicked off Sunday at Mountain View High School in Mesa.
The Hermosa Vista Elementary fourth-grader is a member of Arizona Heat and will compete in several categories, including the 60-meter race, shot put, softball throw and the turbo jav, a minijavelin competition.
The Arizona Heat team is one of 35 teams nationwide and from Sweden competing in the seven-day event held throughout Mesa. There are 250 athletes and 80 coaches registered.
Athletes will compete in track, field, pentathlon, archery, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting, bocce ball and basketball. Social events have also been planned each night, including a magic show, karaoke, movie night, dances and a concert Friday at Mesa Amphitheatre with local alternative bands.
Born with spina bifida, Zach is paralyzed from the waist down and has been in a wheelchair all his life.
His mother, Cindy Wharton, said the competitions will give Zach a chance to socialize and compete with others in similar situations.
"I think it’s great because he can see everybody is able to compete in different sports," said Cindy Wharton, a video systems trainer for the Mesa Unified School District. "This is fun because now his brother and sister get to cheer him on instead of the other way around."
Jeffrey Chambless is competing for the fifth time in the junior nationals. The 19-yearold Arizona Heat member will be in the 60-meter weave, 100-meter dash, club throw, discus and bocce ball.
"I am looking forward to bocce ball because I get to play a lot of the strategies during the game," said Chambless, a Mesa High School graduate. He has been a member of the Mesa Association of Sports for the Disabled since he was 6.
His dad, David Chambless, said he expects his son to do well in the bocce competition.
"He’s good at it, and he loves it," said David Chambless, who added that his son holds a couple of national records and was named an outstanding bocce player at a Florida event four years ago.