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Norfolk Senior High School graduate qualifies for Tokyo Paralympics

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TaLeah Willams

NORFOLK, Neb. (KTIV) - A 2015 graduate of Norfolk Senior High School will be representing the United States in this year's Paralympic games. They take place after the Olympic Games in Tokyo from Aug. 24 - Sept. 5.

Her name is TaLeah Williams, a long jumper on the track and field team for Team USA in this year's Paralympic games in Tokyo, Japan. Williams was born without the lower part of her left arm, but that didn't stop her from becoming a two-sport athlete at Norfolk Senior High School.

After graduating from Norfolk, she went on to long jump in college. That was when she found out about the Paralympics and went to trials for the 2016 Rio games. She placed 5th in Rio and after competing at this year's trials in Minneapolis, she once again qualified for this year's games. But she says that just making it is an honor in itself, especially after this crazy year.

"It's just been mentally exhausting and physically and emotionally draining with everything going on. Making it is not good enough, but if it ends up that way, I'll still be happy I got to this point," said TaLeah.

TaLeah says she never imagined that she would be at this stage.

"I just think getting to this point where I'm like fully comfortable with myself and I get to compete on a stage, the highest stage you can compete on, being fully comfortable is something that I never thought would happen," added TaLeah.

TaLeah's high school track coach says that the coaching staff always knew that she was special, due to her ability to make the best of her situation.

"In her situation it's really easy to feel bad for yourself where TaLeah just kind of picked her self and said you know, I can do anything anybody else can do," said Gary Schuurmans, TaLeah's high school track coach.

Schuurmans says TaLeah was a great competitor, and a great example of the program.

TaLeah's mom says lots of people will be watching and supporting her and that she is extremely proud of her daughter.

"She's got such a great heart for her competition that she wants to do her best, and it's fun to see her grow and continue to do better and better and then to be asked to try out for the Paralympics was really a great honor for her, so we're really proud of her," said Priscilla Williams, TaLeah's mom.

TaLeah's dad says that her drive started when she was very young.

"She used to sit out on the floor and try to tie her shoes, and I'd sit there and watch her struggle, and I'd go and try to help her, and she'd slap my hand away and say 'I got it dad.'" said Calvin Willams, TaLeah's dad.

From Norfolk, to Rio, and now Tokyo, Williams is spreading Panther Pride all around the globe.

Brett Mayerson

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