By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandFebruary 14, 2017
BEND, Oregon (Feb. 13, 2017) -- All-Army runners relied on physical resilience and readiness training to attain unprecedented results at the 2017 Armed Forces Cross Country Championships on snow-covered River's Edge Golf Course.
The Army men and women dominated the 10-kilometer Armed Forces races against Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The men swept 1st through 4th place, while the women took home gold and silver medals.
Volunteers used snow blowers and shovels to clear a two-kilometer loop through two feet of snow in time to run the race on a hilly course of ice, slippery grass and mud.
"It was a really nasty course," said Capt. Kelly Calway of West Point, New York, a three-time winner of the event who had not run a cross country race in four years because of pregnancy, deployment and injury.
Calway instructs cadets in physical readiness training, modern Army combatives and aerobic fitness at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
"If you're going out there and doing tough training and hard workouts every day," Calway said, "you're definitely able to mentally adapt to the conditions on the ground at the time.
"I always feel like I have an advantage at every race I'm at because I know I train through tough weather," Calway continued. "I don't go inside on the treadmill. In the Army, you don't have the choice oftentimes to bring your whole unit and run inside on treadmills. You're out there and in the environment that you're going to be operating in and it just makes you so much more mentally tough to be able to get through that when you're actually out there on race day."
Calway also emphasized the secondary benefits of physical readiness training.
"There are huge secondary benefits to being physically in shape and ready to perform your mission," she said. "I love teaching it to the cadets because it gives them a whole variety of really well planned out fitness plans so they can get their unit to mission ready and keep them there without injuring them so they have their entire team to take on the deployment or go accomplish whatever mission they have."
Calway, 32, has trained through two pregnancies and learned a lot along the way.
"I would go crazy if I didn't run," she said. "I think the biggest shift is mental. You go from: 'I need to be smart. I need to listen to my body.' Then you go back to: 'Alright, I need this to really hurt.' I might have taken that to the extreme because I ended up at the Olympic Trials with a stress fracture in my femur. I got a little too good at hurting again and didn't listen to my body -- probably failed at the worst portion of the Army Performance Triad. I know better, but I had to relearn that lesson."
The Performance Triad is a comprehensive plan to improve readiness and increase resilience by getting quality sleep, engaging in activity, and improving nutrition -- components endurance athletes thrive upon.
Teammate Capt. Meghan Curran of Fort Carson, Colorado, crossed the finish line 10 seconds behind Calway, and agreed that resiliency was a key factor in her performance.
"This was my fourth Armed Forces cross country competition and my best finish to date," Curran said. "A few years ago, the whole competition was intimidating to me. What I have learned over time is to control the controllable. Being resilient means that instead of getting down after a disappointing performance, you assess what you can control and what you can improve and you focus on that.
"Resilience isn't something that you can learn overnight -- it's a process -- but ultimately learning to focus your energy in a positive way pays off."
All-Army coach Col. Liam Collins, 46, leads by example. After traveling across 10 time zones from Ukraine, he finished 11th in the masters division and third in his age group at the national cross country championships with a time of 29:30 for eight kilometers. Despite injuries and deployments, Collins has run 15 sub-55-minute Army Ten-Milers. He understands how resilience and readiness training benefits Soldiers on playing and battle fields.
"If you're physically fit, it's going to take you longer to get fatigued, and one of the first things to go when you get fatigued is your ability to make decisions because you're too tired to think," said Collins, director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. "Being in great shape allows you to be stressed much more physically without getting mentally stressed, which is absolutely critical in combat when you start running with a heavy load on and you're under fire."
Army Olympian Spc. Leonard Korir became the first Soldier ever to win a USA Track & Field national cross country championship Nov. 4 on snow-covered River's Edge Golf Course in Bend, Oregon.
Korir outkicked former Army Reservist Stanley Kebenei (30:15) to win the 10-kilometer race in 30 minutes, 12 seconds. The 2017 Armed Forces Championships were run in conjunction with the nationals and Army (10) swept the top four spots against Air Force (28), Navy (66) and Marine Corps (81) to win the men's crown.
Army Olympian Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir (30:19) claimed the Armed Forces silver medal and Sgt. Augustus Maiyo (31:04) took the bronze. Maiyo finished 10th overall, marking the first time three Soldiers have placed among the nation's top 10.
Olympian Sgt. Hillary Bor (31:37) completed a sweep of the top four Armed Forces spots by U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado. Seventh-place finisher Spc. Nicholas Kipruto (32:20) of Fort Hood, Texas, completed the Army scoring, followed by Spc. Peter Koskey (12th, 34:44) of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Michael Biwott (13th, 35:58) of Vilseck, Germany.
Capt. Kelly Calway of West Point, New York, won the Armed Forces women's race in 38:18, followed by silver medalist Capt. Meghan Curran (38:28) of Fort Carson, Spc. Ruth Keino (4th, 40:28) of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany; and 1st Lt. Jennifer Comfort (7th, 41:38) of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Sgt. Esther Spradling (8th, 41:53) of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Spc. Susan Tanui (10th, 42:56) of Fort Riley, Kansas, completed the Army squad.
Korir and Kipchirchir earned berths in the 2017 IAFF World Cross Country Championships, scheduled for March 26 in Kampala, Uganda.
Most of these runners are expected to compete in the 2017 Army Ten-Miler, set for Oct. 8 at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., where Soldiers and civilians can run alongside Olympians.
Calway finished second overall and was the first military female finisher at the 2016 Army Ten-Miler. "I really want to win it this year," she said. "I love that race."