Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 6 & 7 - Wheelchair field and Track Day 2 & 3

It's been a long eight days but we will finish with tonight's awards banquet. This week has given us great competition and many memories. Thursday morning was the second and final day of the wheelchair field competitions and things ran smoothly. Walking though the venue, you could see lots of sleepy faces and people taking it easy. The night before were the first track events and many of the athletes had stayed out to cheer on their friends and teammates. Even though energy levels were lower, records were still being broken and many set their personal bests. 

Thursday morning Amanda Merlau of the Rochester Rookies got her chance to shine while participating in shotput, discus and javelin. She was excited and placed first in each event for her classification. "I feel really good about how I threw." She has been at the NJDC all week and was doing an amazing job not only in field but in swimming and weightlifting, always placing first or second in her events. This was Amanda’s first time to Arizona she has really enjoyed being here, remarking "I really like coming to these competitions and seeing everybody with their different disabilities and getting to know them."

Every athlete I have talked to this week has inevitably said how much they love getting to know people from other teams and learning that there are others that share their challenges and passions. This competition has given many young athletes the chance to express themselves naturally in a world that is often quick to judge. The friends and memories created here will stay with these young people for the rest of their lives and hopefully always continue to push them to do their best. “I try to throw as hard as I can, and when it’s over I feel really proud of myself,” said Jayson Gorton. Jayson has been competing for over eight years and at only 13 years old this young athlete is setting records. Back in Minnesota Jayson get’s together every Wednesday and Saturday to practice with his team the Blizzards. “It’s fun hanging out with my friends and practicing to get better at what we do.” All that practice paid off when Jayson set a new record in Discus with a 8.57m throw.

Even after a long week and many events, the consensus among the competitors is that they would all keep going if they could. “I’m not ready to go home yet,” said Jayson, and George Anglin wished that it was still the middle of the week. Melanie Watson of team GLASA said, “It’s never any fun ending a vacation.” Melanie has had a long season competing in sports back at her high school in Wisconsin, then the NJDC, and now going back home to start Basketball next week. Melanie competed in the 100m, 200m, 800m track events, exclaiming “I’m excited, I did really well!” She loves competition and every month travels an hour and half across the Wisconsin/Illinois border to practice and compete with GLASA. “It has given me the chance to meet so many new people like me and to explore different parts of the country.”

Today everyone will be parting ways. Some will go home while others stay to explore the sights here in Arizona. Daniel Romanchuk and his family are taking the opportunity to head up to Sedona and the Grand Canyon before heading home. Daniel definitely deserves a break after taking part in all three days of track events and stunning the audience by taking first place in the 100m, 200m, 800m, 1500m, and 5000m. Also finishing first in all of her events was Taylor Morefield of Illinois, who raced in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, and the 1500m. “It’s exciting but I’m ready to go home,” she said. “I can’t wait to take a shower and take a long nap!”

Like many of the athletes Taylor is sad to have to say goodbye to her friends at the banquet tonight, but all good things must come to an end. This week has been fun, challenging, hectic, and inspiring. Arizona Disabled Sports would like to thank all the families, coaches, local community members, officials, and almost 600 volunteers for their love and support. It is only because of their energy that an event like this is possible! Most of all, thank you to the 115 athletes from around the nation and world who showed us what it meant to really challenge ourselves and others. Congratulations, you are truly amazing people! You have shown me and many others the meaning of determination and I am proud to have meat all of you and call you friends. Good luck in all your endeavors though out the year and we will see you all at next year’s National Junior Disability Championships! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 5 - Wheelchair Field and Track

     Thursday marked the start of the wheelchair field competitions, with athletes eager to test their skills. Everyone was excited to learn that Keven Kennedy from Channel 12 news was at the event, taking photos and interviewing some of the athletes. The segment aired Thursday night at 10pm, but you can click the link below to see Rachel Kroener, George Anglin and Nishan Patel talk about the NJDC:

     Even though they were getting interviewed, they didn’t lose focus. Rachel, a local athlete from Scottsdale and a member of Arizona Heat, amazed everyone when she set a new Americas record for discus by throwing 16.36m! Rachel isn’t a stranger to setting records and it’s one of her favorite things about competing. She attends other events throughout the year, like the Desert challenge (based here in Arizona) to sharpen her skills. Along with her new record she also holds the Americas record in javelin with a throw of 11.24m. She is always trying to break her own records: “I want to be the best!” Due to her hard work and determination, Rachel is a 2016 Paralympics hopeful. 

     Over in pit 8, George Anglin of Team DASA was setting his own personal best in shotput with a throw of 6.36m. “My favorite part of competition is finding out how good I am so I can improve for next time. If you want to succeed, push yourself.” George has been competing since he was 10 years old and at 20 years old only as a year left where he will be able to compete in Junior level events, so he will be training hard for the next few years to be able to  compete in the 2016 Paralympics. 

Thursday night was the 1500m and 100m track events and the turnout was huge. Family, friends, athletes, vendors and local community members arrived, along with local paramedics from the city of Mesa. They were grateful to be able to experience a disability competition for the first time. “It’s been an eye-opening experience, I’ve never been to anything like it before,” said Jeff Stieber. Fortunately, their services were not required, but we thank them for their support nonetheless! The 100m is a fun quick race that every athlete at the NJDC seems to enjoy because there are about 20 heats. Faith Ryberg from Team Arizona heat was really excited about how she raced, saying, “I did really good! I definitely like the 100m better than the 200m.”
It’s not over yet! There are still two more days of track left, and many more competitions! Check out the Results from Thursday night’s races here:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 4 - Field Clinic, Powerlifting and 5000m

Determination and striving to do your best are virtues everyone at the NJDC can relate to. The athletes and coaches are always looking for ways to challenge participants and it takes lots of time and practice. Wednesday morning the NJDC hosted a field clinic for the ambulatory athletes. Coaches discussed tips and techniques about the long jump, shotput, discus and javelin, as well as give one-on-one help to each of the athletes. Gianni Toce of team Gumbo was happy he got to take part in the clinic, saying "I knew how to do everything but not correctly, it was definitely helpful. I really needed work on shotput and with their help I figured it out quickly." The coaches I talked with had only good things to say about the clinic. Melinda Miles, Coach for Louisiana said, "It was great, very informative and I appreciate the NJDC putting this on. Everyone benefited from it."  Rich Robert is an official for this event and changed gears in order to help coach at the clinic. "We went through the basics of discus, javelin, and shotput for all the disability groups." Rich has a lot of experience teaching at these types of events. He has traveled all around the world training everyone from young athletes all the way up to military personnel. "I love teaching these clinics; these kids are very enthusiastic and willing to learn. They are diamonds in the rough and we get the chance to polish them." Lane Gram, Director of Games for this event, is also excited to be able to host a clinic this year. "It looked really good and hopefully it will influence the competition for the next few days," she remarked.

Athletes are always pushing their limits during competition, and during powerlifting many participants used their strength and will power to break records. Bryce Segura from Louisiana has been training all year for this event and it really paid off when he broke the record on his first lift at 210lbs. This record was then immediately smashed as Bryce broke his own record by lifting 220lbs! However, Bryce was disappointed because he couldn’t hit his target of 230lbs, saying "I've done it before in practice so I know I can do it. I have to keep going and pushing myself." He has already decided that he wants to break the record again next year and has already started planning out how he will train. Also breaking records at this event was Tiffany Melchiorre, making it look easy as she lifted 135lbs and surpassing the old record by 10lbs! Check out Tiffiany’s record breaking lift on Facebook.

Endurance is a necessity with the 5000m track event. That’s a little over 12 laps on a standard track, and wheelchair athletes are doing it with their upper body strength alone. “It’s harder using just your arms to push,” says Charles Jackson member of the United Spinal Navigators of New Jersey. Charles completed the circuit just over 14 minutes, and is working with an eye toward the IWAS World Junior being held in Puerto Rico next year. “I want to get there - that’s where my effort goes.” This is Charles second national event and he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 3 - Ambulatory Field and Swimming

Time has been flying by and there are still so many events left, including Powerlifting, Track, and Field. Day 3 was the first of the Ambulatory field events and everywhere you looked were people cheering on the athletes. The NJDC is all about the athletes but it wouldn't be possible without the love and support of their families and coaches. Many of the teams that attend the NJDC are made up of families getting together to provide opportunities for their children. Karsten Brogan of Team Gumbo from Louisiana had great support during his long jump as his Dad watched from the sidelines. Before the event, Karsten's Dad told him, "get out there and do your best, get the record then you can go for five!" This was Karsten's first time ever doing long jump and he blew away the competition with a first attempt of 4.04. Karsten and his family were Arizonans until a few years ago so they are no strangers to heat. "I like Arizona. I do well in the heat," Karsten said. 

Also competing in the long jump was Alexandra Badeaux from Team Gumbo. Alexandra is 18 and she has been going to competitions since she was nine years old and her family has always been there to help her along the way. At this competition her family watched and cheered from the sidelines and her coach, who also happens to be her mother, stood next to her giving her advice. Before Alexandra's last jump, Coach Stephanie told her to, "leave it all in the pit – don’t worry about face-planting!" Alexandra loves coming to these events, saying "it's fun to see who's faster and who's been training during the year,” but she is planning on trading in her spikes for a stack of books as she will be going to college soon. She has been accepted into a 2 year International Baccalaureate in Costa Rica and hopes to study biology. No matter what she does she has the support of her friends and family.
Ambulatory Field Results:

After Monday's monsoon ended the swimming competition on day 1 early, the atmosphere at the pool today was tense. The skies stayed clear all night and with the exception of a minor technical difficulty at the start of the race everything ran smoothly. Athletes quickly got into the spirit of the event, laughing and playing in-between races before becoming focused and determined at the starting platform. Nadia Hopkins, 15 years old and competing for the Georgia Blazers, was a little disappointed that she was unable to race Monday, but understands why. "They had to do what they had to do to keep people safe." She got her chance to make it up on Tuesday by competing in 8 different swimming events. Unlike many of the other athletes at the NJDC, Nadia's only event is swimming. "I dedicate my life to swimming," she told me with a big smile. Along with some of her teammates from the Blazers, she will be competing next week at an event for the top swimmers in the South called the Southern Zones Championships.

"I'm sore, tired and wanna swim more" was the motto for Trey Davis, also of the Georgia Blazers, who couldn't wait for his chance to get back in the water. The excited 14 year old from Dalton was ready to swim all night if he had to, competing in a total of seven different events. Trey travels all over the nation throughout the year for the chance to compete and win! At the moment he is training for his chance to compete in the 2014 worlds.

One thing the athletes here at the NJDC share is their outgoing attitude and desire to be photographed and interviewed. It certainly makes my job easier when I get to talk with so many great young athletes that are so enthusiastic! This has given me some pretty awesome stories and photos that I get to share with you. Keep up the good work parents and coaches, and good luck on all of the upcoming events. Let’s give the last four days our best! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 2 - Pentathlon, Table Tennis and Swimming

Day 2 started off early in the morning with the Pentathlon. Many of the athletes and coaches attending the event looked a little tired after a long night of meetings and socials. But that didn't last long. As athletes took their turns at each event you could see the focus and determination. They came to win. 

Some of the events that make up the Pentathlon include shotput, javelin, discus, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters. Sean Burns of team Carolina Cruisers from Weddington, North Carolina had just taken his turn at the shotput, throwing a 5.36. He said "I like being in Arizona. I do better in the heat." Sean is 18 years old and has been competing for four years now. "I look forward to going up against other athletes that are better me," he said after he was asked what he liked about the NJDC. 

The athletes and coaches all seem to agree that the NJDC is where the competition is. Gareson Hayes of Team Southpaws from Aura Colorado said, "I like meeting new people and learning that there are others like me, and that I can run just as fast as them." Gareson has been a part of school sports for about two years, but this is one of his first disabled competitions and he is showing everyone what he can do. He had just finished racing his favorite event, the 100 meter, and finished with a time of 16.89. 

Later in the morning the wheelchair athletes got their chance at the track portion of the Pentathlon. Adam Cruz of team Zero Gravity was calm and ready to go while waiting for his chance to race. At 17 years old Adam has been competing in local and national events for over 12 years. Many of those years have been devoted to road racing so it is no surprise how focused he is. Being from New York you may think the Arizona heat might get to him but he likes it and is actually planning on attending the University of Arizona in Tucson after high school.

Look for the Pentathlon results here: 

After four hours in the sun everyone was ready for A/C. Table Tennis was a welcome break from the heat where it was held indoors at the Broadway Recreation Center, home of the event host, Arizona Disabled Sports. 
Team Thailand made its first appearance of the tournament and they came to win. Yuttajak Glinbancheun from Bangkok, Thailand dominated Table 4 winning every one of his matches during the wheelchair singles and taking first place for Thailand. Yuttajak was excited about each victory but stayed calm and collected at the start of each new match and easily read each shot that came his way. He is good at table tennis but his favorite event is freestyle swimming. So watch out him the rest of the week in the swimming competitions. 

There was a huge turnout of athletes, coaches, family, friends and local spectators for the start of the swimming events. You could feel the excitement of everyone at the pool. This was a social event just as much as it was a swimming competition. Many of the competitors would cheer on other teams to show their support and in between races would hang out with other groups. Andy Chasanoff, coach of the Paralympic Sport Club of Tampa said, "We come for the competition, but the social and educational aspect is just as important." Even after the races ended and athletes were still in the pool they would provide words of encouragement to the competitors in the lanes next to them. 

Unfortunately Arizona monsoons put a quick end to the first day of swimmings as lighting could be seen in the distance. There were mixed emotions in the classroom at Kino Aquatic Center as the event was called off after a 30 minute wait. Many of the athletes were ready to get back in the pool while others looked ready for bed.  But everyone will get their chance when swimming resumes July 24, at 6:30pm with event 14. See you there! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 1 - Archery and Opening Ceremony

Day one of competition was a huge success and the athletes at the archery match were great! Today we had almost 30 athletes from 11 different teams competing in 5 age divisions. Everyone was really excited to be out in the heat doing what they do best.

Emily Clarke and Carlos Quintanilla from the Paralymipc Sports Club of Tampa came all the way from Florida to compete in the NJDC and they were excited to be here in Arizona doing what they love."I like Arizona its fun and hot!" said Carlos. He has been competing for two years now and today shot the highest score for his team with 631, "I tried my best and that's all that matters." Carlos and Emily will be competing in other events thoughout the week including swimming, field and tables tennis. "I like just having fun when I compete" said Emily who has been participating in disabled sport competitions since she was six. Congratulations, everyone did an amazing job.

Want to see the results for archery click here:

Starting everything off at the Opening Ceremonies was Games Director Lane Gram, who welcomed the athletes to Arizona and gave a brief history about the host organization Arizona Disabled Sports.

The Mesa Police Department presented colors during the singing of the national anthem. After a “Welcome to Mesa” by Barbara Chambers, Chair of the Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports USA, the audience cheered on the teams as they made their way around the MCC Track.  

When everyone was finally in place Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh stood up and talked to athletes. He said he was “excited to welcome everyone to Mesa and wished everyone good luck”.

At the end Mike Armstrong, owner of Blind Tiger Martial Arts, came forwarded and talked about his experience of being blind and how it didn’t hold him back. He encouraged the athletes and said how amazing and strong each one of them is. Mike was a huge inspiration everyone at the stadium showing that anyone can challenge their ability and achieve goals they previously thought impossible.

It’s the end of Day 2 and with six more to go get a good night sleep and Good Luck!

For more pictures of the events check out our Facebook album!

Beat the Heat in AZ

Yesterday's Dust Storm surprised a few people from out of town, and the rain was a welcome break in the heat. While many people know that Arizona can see temperatures will in excess of 110 degrees during July. You probably don't know that during the month of June through September Arizona sees some pretty big storms we call the monsoon season. This means along with high temperatures, we periodically have massive dust and rain storms. This makes it really important to prepare for anything. 

When going out this week it will get hot, but with the proper protection it'll be no problem. Here are some easy tips to help.

Sunscreen is your friend! Make sure to apply sunscreen every time you want to go out and reapply often. About every two hours especially if you are swimming or sweating heavily. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that guards against UVB and UVA rays.

Seek the Shade. Especially during the peak hours of the day from 10am to 4pm. At each venue, look for the shaded areas. We also provide tents at many of the sites. At Kino Aquatic Center there is covered setting for spectators along the pool. You should wear loose fitting close with long sleeves. Bring your own shade with a wide brimmed hat. Protect yourself and get a souvenir at the same time with a sombrero!

Water, Water, Water. Dehydration is an all too common occurrence in Arizona's warm, sunny, dry climate. Our wonderful sponsors have provided us with lots of bottled water so take advantage of it. Our bodies loose almost 10 cups of water a day and physical activity increases that number. If you think you might be dehydrated find help right away. Some symptoms include: Thirst, a dry sticky mouth, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness and lightheadedness, muscle weakness, sleepiness or fatigue, and dark-colored urine. Make sure to eat too! Eating food is an easy way for your body to get the water it needs. 

Dust storms are rare, even during the monsoon season but here's what you need to know!

Check the Weather forecast. (Stay inside) Find out before you venture outside if there is a chance of dust storms. If there are any storms, plan on staying indoors if possible. Dust storms happen fast, if the wind starts to pick and it gets dark, be careful you might be in a dust storm. 

Find Shelter. The easiest and safest thing to do during a dust storm is to go inside. The Hilton is great place to sit back be social while watching the storm go by. 

Bring Protection.  Bring water with you when you go out. Dust storms happen when it's hot and dry and you don't want to be stuck without water. If you are outside you want to protect yourself from flying objects, sand and dust particles. A mask and goggles work best for this. If you don't have these you can wrap a cloth tightly around your head to protect your eyes and ears.

When you’re Driving.  Do not try to out run a dust storm. If you find yourself stuck in one and the visibility drops below 300ft immediately pull of the road. If you can, pull into a parking lot. If you are on the highway exit if possible, if you can't move as far to the right as you can.  When stopped, turn off lights; set the emergency brake, and make sure the brake light is off. This will reduce the possibility of a rear-end collision. If you are unable to safely pull off the road, keep your headlights on, turn on your hazard lights, slow down, and proceed with caution, sounding your horn periodically. Use the highway's center-line to guide you if you can't see in front of you. Pull over at the nearest safe spot.

Last but not least we all love the rain but it's easy to forget how dangerous it can be.

Watch the Weather Forecast. Just like with dust storms, know ahead of time what the weather is going to be like that day. The safest place is always indoors. 

If you’re stuck outside. Find shelter immediately. Avoid open fields and power lines. 

When you’re Driving.  Slow down. Roads become slippery when water mixes with oil, dirt and grease making it harder to control a vehicle. Refrain from tailgating. Stopping distances are greater on wet, slippery roads. If your visibility is reduced just as in a dust storm, pull completely off the road. Never stop in the travel portion of the road. When you are stopped make sure your lights are off, lifting foot from the brake to ensure brake lights are not lit. This will prevent other drivers from following your taillights, thinking you are still on the road.

Flash Floods.  Do not drive in flooded areas! It only takes a few inches of rushing water to move a vehicle. It is always safer to wait or go around flooded areas than to try and go though one.