High Desert Adventure Awaits Disabled, Able-Bodied Competitors in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2012 Adventure TEAM Challenge

By Richard Rhinehart

Denver, Colo., May 15, 2012 – For participants of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Adventure TEAM Challenge, it’s not all about winning the race. Including both disabled and able-bodied competitors on teams of five persons changes the perspective of all the participants.

Created by blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer of Golden, CO, following his participation in outdoor competitions including the Primal Quest, the Adventure TEAM Challenge brings together experienced adventure athletes, wounded warriors from our nation’s military, corporate fitness enthusiasts and individuals with disabilities, including paraplegics and quadriplegics.

Overlook view

The Colorado River Valley west of Grand Junction, CO is a red rock wilderness for adventure. Photograph copyright 2012, Catherine Shenk.

“I don’t know of any other experience in the world as powerful as ATC that gets a team thinking creatively and collaboratively to break through barriers and achieve more together,” said Weihenmayer, who has climbed the seven highest summits on the planet. “You can talk these themes until you’re blue in the face, but it’s a big step up when your team is placed in a spectacular rugged environment and forced to live these commitments through its every fiber. That’s when it gets real and real transformation happens!”

Held in the high Colorado desert near Grand Junction and Fruita this May 18-20, the Challenge will feature 14 teams, assuring the 2012 edition to be the largest to date. Presented by Alteryx, the leader in strategic analytics, delivering a complete desktop-to-cloud solution, the 2012 Challenge requires participating teams to work together to creatively solve challenges and meet objectives.

Each team is required to include two persons with disabilities, including one who is a wheelchair user. Negotiating obstacles along the route, including mountain biking, river rafting, climbing and hiking, is particularly challenging as all team members must stay together throughout the Challenge. Successful teams rely not only on strength and endurance, but also on problem solving and innovation.

A Lizard in the Sun

On a sunny sandstone outcropping, a lizard suns itself. Photograph copyright 2012, Catherine Shenk.

Participants of the Challenge include a wide variety of athletes. Robb Kimbrough of Boulder, CO is a member of Team Alteryx Fuzzy Match. A climber since age 16, Kimbrough lost both his legs to random invasive strep infection (flesh eating bacteria) six and one-half years ago. Though he admits he “usually does not play well with others,” Kimbrough is looking forward to the Challenge and “forcing through the challenges.”

Texan Mary Coffee, a member of Team Alteryx Armadillos, gained an appreciation for what it means to be disabled after a 2007 skydiving accident left her in a wheelchair for three months with a broken leg and fractured pelvis. Owing to a parachute that was not packed properly and did not open all the way on her first solo skydive, she experienced a “death spiral.” Remaining calm as she realized what was happening, Coffee hit ground at 20 mph. Fortunately she landed in a wet area, which allowed her to survive, and woke up in the EMS van.

Jake Schmalzried of Team Crump was injured in a 1997 construction accident, resulting in the loss of use of his legs. Yet, he maintains a positive attitude. “This is how my life is and what I have to do. It’s not really about overcoming things. If I want to participate or overcome things, how do I do it is the question,” Jake explained. A wheelchair basketball player who plays for the Albuquerque Kings, Schmalzried has played basketball for 14 years. Regarding his participation in the Challenge, “I don’t want to let my team down,” Schmalzried said.

Cactus Flowers

Beautiful cactus flowers bring color to the spring landscape on the Plateau west of Grand Junction, CO. Photograph copyright 2012, Catherine Shenk.

Gina Utegg of Team Who Says I Can’t, an all-woman’s team, has multiple disabilities due to a car crash, including spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. She is also a cancer survivor. Active in sprint triathlons, recumbent bike rides and races, Utegg is a three-time participant in World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ Face of America ride from Washington to Gettysburg. The Tewksbury, MA resident loves all sorts of sports and wants to try everything.

A climbing accident in 1997 on the East Face of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park left Boulder, CO climber Steve Mestdagh a below-the-knee amputee. Yet, he has remained very active in technical climbing, canyoneering and trail running. A member of Team Atlas Shrugged, Mestdagh has not competed in any race before. “If you think you can’t, you’re wrong!” said Mestdagh, who is approaching his participation with a positive attitude.

Katherine Ragazzino is originally from Philadelphia, PA and is a past veteran of the Adventure TEAM Challenge. After sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) with post-traumatic stress and nerve damage while serving with the Marine Corps in Iraq, Katherine spent 18 months in a Navy hospital. Following her discharge from the Marines, she continues her medical care in VA facilities. A member of the Alteryx Force team, Ragazzino loves competition. She participates in a number of athletic events and activities that challenge her to reach the highest levels of her abilities through adaptive sports.

Colorado Springs, CO resident Scott Doyle is participating as a member of the Fire Strategies team. A hereditary bone disease kept Doyle confined to inside activities during most of his childhood. However, 18 months of medical treatment helped his bone grow back almost completely. A ten year veteran of the Army, Doyle had tours of duty in Bosnia and in Iraq. Following his return home, Doyle was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I have had a lot of good friends return from Afghanistan and Iraq with lots of disabilities,” Doyle said of his participation in the Challenge. “This was outdoors and something I could do.”

Learn more about the backgrounds of selected participants of the 2012 Adventure TEAM Challenge online. Explore the 2012 Adventure TEAM Challenge web page. Visit the Adventure TEAM Challenge page from Alteryx, presenting sponsor for the 2012 Challenge.

About World T.E.A.M. Sports
World T.E.A.M. Sports is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization chartered in North Carolina and headquartered in Holbrook, New York. For more than 20 years, World T.E.A.M. Sports has organized athletic events for disabled and able bodied citizens – mountain climbing, white water rafting, biking, and more. In all our events – whether mountain climbing, biking, white water rafting or many other sports – we include both disabled and able-bodied participants. Four things always happen at our events: 1) Disabled participants build self-confidence and physical fitness. 2) The disabled provide a role model for other disabled citizens, encouraging them to take up physical activities. 3) The disabled become a moving inspiration to other participants and to spectators when they see that disabled individuals can meet challenges beyond anyone’s imagination. 4) The disabled and able-bodied participants learn to work as a team to overcome those challenges. We change lives through sports.

Western Colorado Valley

Terrain in the region west of Grand Junction, CO is dry and rugged. Photograph copyright 2012, Catherine Shenk.