By: Jennifer McMahon (Team Semper Fi Assistant) – August 8, 2010
Santa Cruz, CA – Like any triathlon, the Santa Cruz Sprint Triathlon is an individual sport. Team Semper Fi recently competed in this triathlon which consisted of a 750 yard swim, 12 mile bike ride and a 5K run. Even the most physically fit able bodied athletes find a sprint triathlon a physically and mentally daunting task, now imagine competing with a spinal cord injury, or an amputated leg, and/or post traumatic stress disorder. These are just a few of the injuries that Team Semper Fi athletes have that were competing in this sprint triathlon.
They started out as twelve individuals in a field of hundreds of individuals competing that day. Some of our TSF athletes competing had aspirations of qualifying for the nationals, some wanted to beat personal records, some just came out to have fun, but all wanted to complete the competition.
By 9am all twelve TSF competitors were off and competing. The twelve athletes competing were all of different skill and athletic levels. Some were at the head of the pack and some were further behind. One by one they finished one leg, came into the transition area and then started off on the next leg. By 11:00am eleven of the twelve TSF competitors had completed their sprint triathlon and were waiting for their final team member to come in for the final leg of his triathlon.
The remaining team member was Aaron McMihelk who has a spinal cord injury and is paralyzed from the chest down. As Aaron came into the transition area for his final leg (the 5K run), the team was waiting for him and cheering him on. Aaron was competing in his everyday wheel chair, which makes it more of a challenge for him. The team helped Aaron from his hand cycle to his wheel chair and as he was set to leave, they all decided that he was not going to go back out on the course alone.
They were eleven individuals who decided to come together as one team and complete the 5K with their teammate.
Standing at the finish area were all of the sprint triathlon athletes. Word soon began to spread that TSF had gone back out on the course to run with their teammate, who was now the only remaining competitor left to cross the finish line. All the competitors waited for Aaron and the team to come across the finish line, and as they rounded the corner to the finish line, they
were greeted with loud cheers and applause.
Team Semper Fi, started the Santa Cruz Sprint Triathlon as 12 individuals, but finished as one team. They crossed the finish line together, TSF banner in hand, showing that even in an individual sport, Marines never leave a Marine behind!