On the fast track: Team Army's track athletes shine at DoD Warrior Games
By Joseph Jones, Madigan Army Medical Center Public Affairs

TAMPA, Fla. - On Saturday June 22, the track events portion of the Department of Defense Warrior Games commenced. The energy within the University of South Florida's Track and Field Stadium where the event was held, was exuberant on this particular Saturday morning, accentuated by clear skies and an abundance of luminous sunshine as expected in the officially nicknamed "Sunshine State."

"Track events are another opportunity to just go full-throttle in the spirit of competition, while encouraging and motivating each other as a team," said Spc. Stephanie Johnson, a returning Warrior Games athlete on Team Army who finished second in the women's 100 meters 4.5 and third in the women's 200 meters 4.5 races.

The track events at this year's DoD Warrior Games included races in the standing and racing wheelchair categories at distances of 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meters. Relay races offered are mixed classifications, men only, women only, and also mixed gender.

"Everyone is a star and a point of inspiration," said Spc. Austin Harwick, of Fort Drum, New York, who finished first in the men's 100, 200 and 400 meters 5.5 ortho upper races. "Together we can motivate and strengthen each other to bring out the best we all have to offer," Harwick remarked.

All athletes competed in different classification categories based on their functional abilities, including impaired muscle power, range of movement, limb deficiency and visual impairment. Athletes with lower function and/or impaired balance use specialized equipment, such as a racing wheelchair.

"I refuse to give up. It's about pushing though. You've got to get up and run the race on a track or in life," said U.S. Army retired Sgt. Johnathan Weasner, who impressively finished first in the men's 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters 3.0 wheelchair races.

Racing wheelchairs are designed to be lightweight for maximum efficiency. Prosthetics are designed to withstand a large amount of ground forces produced by the athletes wearing them. Visually impaired athletes in track events use assistance tethered to a sighted guide during their events.

Adaptive approaches to the track events and various classifications allow for inclusion for a range of physical limitations and injuries. "I'm living proof that injury does not have to be the end. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," says Sgt. 1st Class Tiffany Rodriguez-Rexroad, who finished third in the women's 200 meter 3.0 and 800 3.0, and fourth in the women's 100 meter 3.0 wheelchair racing categories.

The 2019 DoD Warrior Games run from June 21-30 in Tampa, Florida. The athletes participating in the competition are comprised of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces are also competing in this year's Warrior Games.

To view extensive up-to-date results from the events of The DoD Warrior Games, visit: https://dodwarriorgames.com/games-results/2019-results/

For more general information about the 2019 DoD Warrior Games visit: https://dodwarriorgames.com