By Kimberly K. Fritz, U.S. Army Medical Command Public AffairsMarch 7, 2016
FORT BLISS, Texas (March 4, 2016) --Twice a day more than 20 runners train at Fort Bliss' Stout Track where they push their bodies to run faster and farther preparing for the Army Trials set to take place here, March 6 to 10.
These athletes are dedicated, committed and eager to earn one of the coveted spots on the Army Team for the Department of Defense Warrior Games planned for June 14 to 22, at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Runners, like returning athlete, U.S. Army veteran Terry Cartwright, are here competing in the adaptive sports that helped to rehabilitate their bodies and their minds following an injury during their military service.
Cartwright, an infantry veteran, living with a non-visible injury, medaled in the Warrior Games last year. He's training alongside other returning and first time athletes. Returning runners like Cartwright and U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Quinn Almon are helping head track Coach Rodney Carson to mentor the other runners and foster the feeling of camaraderie over competing.
"We're not here to compete against one another," Carson said. "We're all here to better ourselves."
During the trials, runners will compete in standard and adapted versions of the men's and womens'100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter sprints, the middle distance 800-meter and a distance run of 1500-meter.
Across the field, more Soldier and veteran athletes are taking aim with the shot-put from seated or standing positions as well as throwing the discus from a raised platform. Some are trying out a new sport like first-time Army Trials athlete U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Jhoonar Barrera. He is competing in the 8-pound shot-put event. Barrera used the adaptive sport wheelchair basketball to keep competitive following a spinal cord injury. The veteran credits playing sports with keeping him focused.
"Adaptive reconditioning has truly made me mentally and physically stronger to tackle everyday events," Barrera said.
All of the athletes are the best from each of the regions across the U.S. and have earned their spot at the trials and hope to move on to the Warrior Games. There are more than 100 athletes here looking to represent the Army.
The trials feature seven sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, cycling, track and field, archery, shooting, and swimming. Wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball are popular and that's evident when practices are in the evening after a full-day of training and the courts are filled with athletes ready to build their skills and strength.
During the first day of training Carson encouraged the athletes to participate in as many of the events as possible.
Many of the athletes are participating in multiple events. Cartwright, a distance runner, also plays sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. Barrera is playing wheelchair basketball here, and is a member of the only all-veteran team in San Diego, California where he works as an IT technician.
The focus here is on performing their best in the competitive sports and in their everyday lives. Time each day is set aside for resilience training including goal setting and mindfulness.
The athletes empower each other and share what practices have worked for them to continue their training.
Barrera said the significance of sports reminds him to continue doing as much as he can and to not settle.
"While I'm here I will never let any of my teammates settle for less," he said. "Be the difference."