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Plainville teen overcomes disability to compete in cross-country meet

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PLAINVILLE -- There's a seventh grader on the Plainville Middle School cross-country team who's not only talking the talk, she's walking the walk.

Alexis Charbonneau has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bones disease. It's a condition in which the bones in the body are prone to easily break and can't support much weight. It's a rare genetic disorder, but it's not stopping Alexis, who rides around in a wheelchair.

She just rolls with it. One day, she decided to join the school cross-country team.

"She came home with the form and said 'Ma I want to do cross country,' and I was like what?!" said Deborah Zinzalet, Alexis' mother. "She said I want to try it and I said absolutely."

Alexis became the team manager, but after a while she decided she wanted to do more. She wanted to run with the other kids.

"One day she told me that she decided to participate in a meet so of course there was no way that I could say no, so I changed the course, and made it so she could participate and emailed the other team to make sure that was okay and here we are," said Jacqueline Franklin, the cross-country coach.

Monday afternoon at the team's meet, Alexis rode her chair around a 1.6-mile circuit, with her coach right by her side. The trek was not easy and was physically challenging for Alexis, but she kept on going.  After some time, she finished and went down the home stretch accompanied by her fellow athletes.

"It was like just really fun that I got to do it with the other kids to see how it feels," said Alexis after the race.

Looking back on it, her mother says the perseverance she witnessed changed her.

"Lexi always wants to be normal," she said. "I always tell her there's no normal, you are what you are, and you do what you possibly can do.  Lexi's bone's are breakable, but you'll never break her spirit."