Hillsboro HS para-athlete striving for greatness one lap at a time

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:03 AM PDT
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HILLSBORO, Ore. (KPTV) - In this High School Spotlight, FOX 12 highlights a para-athlete from Hillsboro High School who possesses the will to win and the drive to be better than yesterday.

Elizabeth Keen always has an eye on the finish line.

“Being in a chair, like, yeah, it bounds me to some things but then just being in the track chair, I can compete with anybody really that I want to,” Keen said.

The 16-year-old sophomore is better known as “Hot Wheels.”

“It makes me feel like I can really just be free from my disability,” she explained.

Born with spina bifida, Keen has preferred her three-wheeled way around the track since she was 9.

“It just helps me realize that I can compete with other people and that I am kind of the same as everyone else, than just being in a wheelchair,” she said.

Twice a state champion in 2022, Keen just returned from her mission to double-up again down in Tracktown, USA.

“Just about every time she gets on the track, she PR’s in either the 100 or the 400 and she gives it her all, no one ever doubts that,” said Dan Shuff, Hillsboro High School track & field head coach.

Keen set her personal record in the 100-meters in a blistering 27.11 seconds.

“I honestly thought they had messed up my time. I did not think I was going as fast as I was, and I just had thought they mixed me up with somebody else,” she said.

A little Hayward Field magic with a PR, but no 100-meter title defense as Keen in her chair was up against ambulatory athletes at the OSAA state meet.

“I ended up talking to most of the athletes afterwards and I became friends with one of them who has a prosthetic leg, and I know that I did PR so that kind of just helps me get passed that whole medal thing at state, and I am happy with how I left on the team,” Keen said.

Keen is still top of the podium as the fastest high school wheelchair racer in the state, the 30th quickest in the country.

“She still goes out and represents us and represents herself and is inspiration to every athlete out there and every person,” said John Matsuo, athletic director at Hillsboro High School.

“It has been a struggle off and on with para-sports and how we are treated so hopefully getting more younger para-athletes to join kind of switches up the rules of everything,” Keen said.

Second place this season in the 400-meters, the highly charged HilHi Spartan is a member of the student council and manager of the boys wrestling team.

“It’s honestly amazing,” she said. “I love competing for this school.”

Keen is already eyeing her best offseason ever to be her best self on the track in the home of the Spartans.