Thursday, May 11, 2000

She sets a strong record of accomplishment

She sets a strong record of accomplishment
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

When Asia Renning was 2 and a newcomer to the United States, she couldn’t walk, stand or crawl.

Renning, now 19, and a member of the Milan High School cross country and track teams, routinely sets school records, in addition to breaking her own personal times.

In recognition of her athletic accomplishments, she recently won a Yes I can! Award—as did 35 other individuals—from an international agency that honors extraordinary people with disabilities.

Born in South Korea, Renning was adopted and brought to the United States by an American couple, Adair and Jerry Renning, in the early ‘80s. Life in a South Korean orphanage hampered some of her early developmental years, since she didn’t receive any individual attention, her parents said.

Although eventually diagnosed with autism, Renning slowly but surely has blossomed.

Adair Renning said some non-traditional medical treatments, including auditory-integration therapy and allergy treatments, helped Asia through the years. She now loves to ask questions when she meets someone she doesn’t know. It’s not long before they’re swapping stories about good restaurants in town (China One), fruits she likes (strawberries and apples) and how she likes to run (but not stretch.)

Asia Renning has loved to run since she was a little girl, Jerry Renning said.

“Even when she was 10 years old, she was as fast as the wind,” he said.

“Her feet would take off first; her legs were ahead of the rest of the body,” Jerry Renning recalled of their father-daughter jogging trips.

Asia has been a member of the track and cross country teams in the Milan schools since the seventh grade, with the same group of girls.

“It’s fun. It’s happy. Good exercise, good team,” Asia said at a recent track practice at Milan Middle School’s track.

Steve Porter, the track and cross country coach at the Milan schools, said Asia helps the team not only by being one of the top five runners on the cross country team, but also by teaching the other girls about diversity and people with disabilities.

“Asia never ceases to surprise us, both athletically and on team discussions,” Porter said.

“There are no limits. She comes back and does more – so do all the girls.

Asia has faced a lot of challenges in life from the very beginning, Adair Renning said.

For her first two years, Asia whose birth mother died, lived in an orphanage since other family members couldn’t take care of her. Asia was born with Hirschprung’s disease, a failure of the nerve endings at the lower end of the colon to develop.

Because of a lack of medical supplies at the orphanage in South Korea, Adair Renning said, Asia didn’t receive adequate treatment in her early years.

The South Korean social services didn’t even have Asia on their list of “adoptable” children at first, Adair Renning said.

But after seeing a picture of her in an international adoption magazine, the Rennings petitioned to adopt Asia, whose Korean name at the time was Kyung Hee.

After several months and some community-based fundraising efforts, the couple finally brought Asia to their home in Minnesota. Asia’s older sister, Meghann, also was adopted.

Adair and Jerry Renning named Asia for Ae Ja Choi, a temporary foster mother she lived with in South Korea shortly before coming to the U.S.

It was challenging for everyone in the family in the early years, the couple said. But after coming to Milan 14 years ago, the family developed a supportive network at the Milan schools. Asia has come to enjoy her classes, making new friends and learning how to cook, Adair Renning said.

Asia attends a special education program at Milan High School and will graduate in two years.

She also had a final colostomy performed four year ago and now her only health problems are a few food and environmental allergies, Adair Renning said.

Asia may also move out from her parents’ home in the next few years to a group home or an alternate-roommate situation, her mother said.

Asia said she likes track and cross country equally, but Adair Renning said Asia frequently changes her mind about which team sport she likes better. Jerry Renning and [Coach] Porter said they think she likes cross country more since everyone on the team runs the same distance together.

Plans after high school graduation include some short marathons and other competitive running. Asia’s mother said, “Running has become such a part of her life,” Adair Renning said.

Asia’s Records
· 200 meter dash, 36:06 seconds … May Washtenaw County Special Olympics.
· 400 meter dash, 0: 82 seconds … May Washtenaw County Special Olympics
· 1500 meter event, 6:14 May Washtenaw County Special Olympics
· 800 meter event, 2:55 … May 2000 meet at Saline High School
· 1600 meter event, 6:26 … Spring 2000 record
· 3200 meter event, 13:39 … 1999 record
· Best 3.1 mile Cross Country Time, 22:24 minutes … Fall 1999

Other awards
· 2000 Yes I can award recipient
· 1996 Summer Olympics Torch carrier in Detroit

Photo caption: Asia Renning, 19, who is autistic, is one of the top five runners on the Milan High School cross country team. She also helps teammates by teaching them about diversity and people with disabilities, coach Steve Porter said.

Originally published Thursday, May 11, 2000