Peter Baklinski

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Pro-life teen forfeits eligibility for school sports to run on behalf of the unborn

Peter Baklinski
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JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri, March 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A pro-life judge once said: “Once or twice in a century an issue arises... so far-reaching in its consequences, and so deep in its foundations, that it calls every person to take a stand.” High school freshman James Vignola, 15, decided to make such a stand two weeks ago.

James was having a good track season at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, Missouri. But then LIFE Runners, a pro-life ministry for praying, running, and raising money for pregnancy help centers, came looking for runners for its pro-life relay across Missouri. The pro-life runners have been seen around the country wearing a blue shirt with the message “REMEMBER The Unborn”.

James knew that his hour had come. But there was one catch. Under the rules of the Missouri High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), which his school belongs to, James had to make sure not to run in any non-school events so as to maintain his eligibility for track events.

Despite the fact that the LIFE Runners relay is not competitive — no timer, medals, or placement of runners — James was told at a track meeting that participating in the relay would disqualify him from school athletics for the year. But running to support the unborn was more important to the young man with strong pro-life convictions than a whole year of sports at his school. 

“I thought it was the right thing to do, and my conscience was telling me to do it,” he told News Tribune.

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When LIFE Runners Mid-MO Chapter Leader Anne Carmichael learned about James’ choice on the day he was to run, she told LifeSiteNews that she was surprised. She had been told that someone would be running in his place. Anne decided to show support for the young man and his choice by driving out to cheer him on and take pictures.

Anne found James running joyfully down the road, being trailed by his Mom and Grandfather in a car with its emergency flashers on to make drivers slow down.

Bill Pauls, another LIFE Runners Chapter Leader, also drove out to honor James. He pulled in front of him and escorted him till the end of his relay, waving a large American flag from his vehicle.

James’ parade-like escort caused such a Forrest-Gump-like scene that a reporter, looking for a story, followed the group to the finish. 

James’ dad had nothing but praise for his son’s decision: “I’m so proud of him for sticking to his guns,” he told Anne.

Classmates at school the next day showed support for James’ decision. “They’re very proud of me,” he said. “They think it was the right thing to do, but were shocked I chose to do this and stand up to MSHSAA.”

James is in the process of having MSHSAA officials look into the restrictive wording of the eligibility standard. While he is no longer able to run for his school, he does not regret his decision.

“I don’t like how they say it’s a woman’s right to kill a baby,” he said. “I want to offer support for the unborn who don’t have a say.” 

LIFE Runners president Pat Castle told LifeSiteNews that young people like James are the “pro-life generation making the needed sacrifices that will finally end legalized abortion”. 

Anne agrees: “Blessings to James for standing up for life. He is the epitome of what we hope for in our youth and a great role model for others.”



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