Wheelchair athletes from around the world stream into Northwest Georgia this time every year in preparation for the annual AJC Peachtree Road Race Wheelchair Division.
There's something new, however, to this year's itinerary that adds Rome to the list of cities where competitors will get ready for the July 4 event in Atlanta.
The America Series will kick off Monday at Barron Stadium with the Meet in the Heat track meet at 6 p.m. The event is free for spectators and will likely last until around 10 p.m.
Athletes will then gather in Cedartown on Tuesday evening near Peek Park for the Cedartown Wheelchair Athlete 5K Road Race.
Event coordinator Dave Grove, who’s a member of the C5K committee, said he expects around 35 athletes to compete in the Rome event, including Paralympic racers from across the United States as well as Australia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica and Venezuela.
“This is a high-level international track meet,” Grove said. “Cedartown and the Peachtree Road Race have been linked together for 18 years. You can go around the world and people know where Cedartown is. What we’re trying to do is build on that.”
The Meet in the Heat will be comprised of several events featuring separate races of 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters for men and women and concludes with a 5K, mirroring the distance for the Cedartown race the following night.
“We are excited to partner with our neighbors in Rome to bring world-class wheelchair athletes to Barron,” said Matt Foster, Cedartown city commissioner and C5K committee member. “Barron has an excellent tradition of track and field events, and we are over the moon excited to bring to Rome what we expect will blossom into an annual, internationally-renowned event.”
Athletes expected to participate include longtime Northwest Georgia resident and US Parlympic medalist Krige Schabort, as well as Cedartown 5K course record-holder and defending men’s champion Daniel Romanchuk, who also won last year’s Peachtree men's wheelchair division title.
Also competing will be past Cedartown 5K women’s champions and Paralympic medalists Susannah Scaroni and Tatyana McFadden. Scaroni won the 2018 Peachtree women's wheelchair division.
“We’re hoping that if this is successful Rome can run with it, and we can be a hub for wheelchair athletes,” Foster said.
The 18th annual Cedartown Wheelchair Athlete 5K Road Race will start Tuesday at 6 p.m. on North College Street near Peek Park. There will also be a fun run for kids ages 12 and younger.
The following day, Cedartown’s host families and committee members will take the racers to Atlanta, where they will race in the 50th running of the Peachtree Road Race early Thursday morning.
The event will showcase more than 75 wheelchair athletes from around the world in the 10K race.