By Brandy Ostanik, Medical Department Activity -- Alaska PAOMarch 14, 2016
FORT BLISS, Texas --The 2016 Army Warrior Trials archery competition took place at Fort Bliss, Texas March 9, with 24 athletes competing for their spot on the podium, in front of a raucous crowd.
The event began with archers, 18 meters from their target, competing in one of two categories; Individual Compound or Individual Recurve. Each category consisted of 20 rounds, called "ends," with three arrows shot during each end. At the completion of the 20 rounds, the top eight competitors in each category moved on to single-elimination rounds.
As the crowd yelled chants of "Pull it back, pull it back, shoot, shoot, shoot!" athletes focused on their targets and shooting sequences, often blocking out the crowd altogether.
According to retired Staff Sgt. Matthew Mihacsi, who is participating in his first Warrior Trials, he hears the crowd, knows they are there, but is able to ignore them.
"I really don't pay the crowd any attention at all," said Mihacsi who placed first in the compound competition here. "I focus on my breathing, go through my shot process and just do me."
When he is not on the blue line aiming at his target, Mihacsi enjoys the feeling of family and belonging he gets around his teammates and competitors.
"It feels like I'm back with my unit," says Mihacsi. "Everyone here is like a bro, the ladies included. We are super tight."
Retired Staff Sgt. Thomas "Red Beard" Ayers agrees with Mihacsi about the feeling of family and camaraderie, but that didn't stop him from wanting to beat fellow athlete, veteran Spc. Sydney Davis.
"Sydney is like a sister to me and we battle it out at every competition and at different camps throughout the year," said Ayers who competes in recurve.
"Today is the first time I've ever beat her. I wanted to beat her and take gold, that was my goal," said Ayers.
Ayers, who took up archery two years ago, did place first in recurve, and was excited to be able to do so in front of his wife and two of his sons. Ayers says his family is a big part of his success in archery and his well-being.
"When I'm having a bad day, my wife knows," said Ayers. "She'll send me out to go shoot some arrows, where I have time to relax, regroup and get my mind right."
The Army Trials concluded on March 10. They are an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. More than 100 athletes competed in archery, cycling, track and field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming and wheelchair basketball.