Soldier aims for Olympic trials, World Class Athlete Program
October 30, 2009
- Soldier misses going to Olympic trials by 10 seconds
- WCAP 'Is very elite class of athletes'
Ten seconds is what kept runner 2LT Derek Taylor from competing in the 2008 Olympic trials during his senior year at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Taylor ran a 3K steeplechase with a time of 8:47, he said. He was ranked 36th but only the top 26 qualified for the Olympic trials. The 26th-place finisher finished at 8:37.
"It was a little frustrating because that was a goal (to go to the Olympic trials) my coach and I had talked about," said Taylor, a Basic Officer Leadership Course II student.
Taylor uses the loss as motivation to reach his goal - the 2012 Olympic trials.
"I have wanted to compete in the Olympics ever since I began running," said the 26-year-old who has been running for 14 years.
He said he began running because his dad needed a partner to train for PT tests. He ran in high school and competed at steeplechase races during the summers.
Taylor competed in the NCAA Championships in college and was ranked 22nd in the Division I 2008 Outdoor Track & Field Championship.
After college, Taylor joined the Army and set his sights on serving his country and qualifying for the World Class Athlete Program, he said.
The program, open to active-duty, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, is a great opportunity for Soldiers to showcase athletic abilities, said Ken Wetherill, Fort Benning WCAP liaison.
"This program is big time," Wetherill said. "If you qualify, you are moving up into a very elite class of athletes."
WCAP, in Fort Carson, Colo., accepts athletes from sports including track and field, archery, boxing, shooting and weightlifting. Qualification requirements vary for each sport.
When WCAP evaluates athletes, 75 percent of what they look at is previous athletic experience and accomplishments, said Mark Dunivan, WCAP sports specialist. The other 25 percent is potential and talent. Currently, there are 58 athletes in the program.
The end goal for all athletes in the program is to go to the Olympic trials. But not everyone makes it, Dunivan said. Although there is not a set time a Soldier stays in WCAP, Dunivan said Soldiers usually stay two or three years. The athletes are required to make yearly benchmarks which determines how long they stay.
WCAP is looking for new athletes and will accept them up to a year prior to the Olympics, he said.
"(WCAP) is an opportunity that will help me achieve my goal of getting to the Olympic trials," Taylor said. "WCAP athletes are extremely talented and dedicated individuals to their sports. The amount of discipline it takes to get in the program and maintain it is something I would like to experience."
Taylor has been working on trying to get back up to his regular training regiment - running 80 miles per week. He was diagnosed with tendonosis in his ankle in December which put a slight damper on his plan to apply for WCAP but that isn't going to stop him, he said.
Taylor developed a 30-week plan to return to running 80 miles. He is in the 10th week of the plan and runs 40 miles per week.
"I haven't been able to train full force since my injury," Taylor said. "I am going to continue to train and get back to where I need to be and go from there. Going to the Olympics is a dream of mine and seeing how I came so close, I don't want to give up now."
Wetherill said he invites any athletes who play at a higher level than the intramural level to apply for the program. For more information about WCAP, go to www.armymwr.com/sports/default.aspx or E-mail Wetherill at Ken. Wetherill@us.army.mil.