Spartan Race offers obstacles and opportunity for disabled athletes
LAUGHLIN — The prize money was secondary, for Some Assembly Required, the team that took first place in Saturday’s Laughlin Spartan Para Elite race, and a $10,000 purse.
“The prize money is temporary,” team member Caitlin Connor said. “The example is gonna last generations.”
Connor was one of several participants in the race who spoke of wanting to demonstrate just how much athletes with disabilities can do.
Organizers set the bar high: the para-athletes tackled the same 4.78-mile course, with the same obstacles, as the competitors in the Spartan Sprint race.
Some Assembly Required member Trevor Battah said he’s proud to have been able to set the standard by which future Para Elite athletes will be judged. Saturday’s race was the first exclusively for para-
athletes, who previously ran in open Spartan events but had no realistic chance of reaching the podium.
“Spartan has always had a couple of groups of adaptive athletes who came, and they were wanting opportunities,” said event director Nicole Verneuille.
She said Spartan officials researched a lot of Paralympic Games events to design the Spartan Para Elite race.
Eight four-person teams entered the race. Verneuille said there were more teams interested, but some decided to wait until next year to enter.
Michelle Burnette and Andy Chong also ran the course, finishing slightly ahead of Some Assembly Required, but were ineligible for the podium because their teammates had to drop out before race time.
The course’s obstacles included monkey bars, a rope climb, a barbed-wire crawl and a tire flip. The latter involved moving a 450-pound hunk of rubber.
Connor said the hardest obstacle was learning to lean on her teammates. She said earlier that she wanted to show other adaptive athletes their own potential.
Before the race, Travis Strong, of Wheels and the Leg Men, talked about his love for participating in Spartan events.
“It’s just freeing to get out there,” said Strong, who has run in two other Spartan races and a handful of Tough Mudder obstacle races. “My goal is to get everybody out there and doing this kind of stuff, no matter what their disability.”
Strong said he appreciated the opportunity to compete in a race with opponents of a similar skill set.
“I usually do them for fun,” he said.
Strong’s mother, Tayler Heston, said she was inspired by the athletes.
“These guys make me feel lazy, and make me feel like I have no reason to complain about anything,” she said.
Connor said she was grateful for the creation of the Spartan Para Elite race.
“It means accessibility,” she said. “It means having a normal life like everybody else (in spite of our) physical limitations.”
Dave Ganas, of the Synergy Prosthetics team, said he started doing Spartan races because he wanted to push himself beyond what he was achieving in physical therapy.
“I’m living my dream,” he said. “We have these amazing athletes in one location, with great camaraderie and positive attitudes.”
The race began with an official telling the para-athletes to “prepare for victory,” a sentiment easily understandable for Tina Hurley of the Adaptive Training Foundation’s Team ATF 2.
“I think as long as nobody quits, then nobody loses,” Hurley said.
Verneuille said she was pleased to see the number of people, including entrants of other events, cheering on the para-athletes.
“We’re thrilled to see the community come out here and support them,” she said. “To have this much support and this many people out here cheering them on is huge for us.”