Sunday, May 17, 2015

Introducing our Junior Co-Captain, Trent Clayton!

Teaming UP with Trent at the Mid-Atlantic Challenged Sports Foundation Championships

Thursday, May 7th:

This is the first official TeamUP trip on the schedule for 2015 and luckily I've been cleared by my doctors to make the journey. I still need to wait at least another week before I'm allowed to begin walk/jogging or lifting more than 15 lbs. but for now I feel strong enough to keep up with Trent through all of his activities over the next few days. 

Jim and I arrived yesterday afternoon in the beautiful town of Charleston, WV. Jim is visiting some of his Austin Enclosures customers here while I am excited to be working with Trent and Darla Clayton this week. 

If you haven't yet met Trent or heard about his life, you can read more on the Get Back UP Today website: http://getbackuptoday.com/teamup/trent-clayton/ . I ran a 5K with him in New Jersey last year and he made such an impression on me when I met him. When Angie Paez suggested we include him as a TeamUP co-captain as a youth ambassador I was in total agreement!

The first event on tap was the Archery competition, so off I went to meet Trent, Darla (his mom) and Ama (his sister) at the Coonskin Golf Club's driving range. I had hoped to arrive by 7:00am but due to a lack of signage in Coonskin Park it was 7:25 before I actually found the right range. Upon arrival I learned that several other competitors were lost too--including the Clayton clan--so I called Darla and helped guide her through the park to the range. Eventually all the competitors found their way and the competition got started about an hour behind schedule.


I'm sorry, but is this not the best ambassador for living well with mobility challenges?!
Trent, you ROCK!

Trent has several interviews in the works for today so I take advantage of the pre-competition
delay to walk Trent through some "media tips". First on the agenda: wear the TeamUP jacket
because it looks so great on camera. I have to tell you all, Trent was a real trooper on this pointer.
The weather this weekend threw everyone for a loop--a stalled heat wave ensured temps in the 90's
and high humidity over the next few days. 

Trent's physical challenges are due in part to a stroke he had as a baby.
Because of this Darla Clayton has made it one of her many missions to
help educate the public on children's strokes and Hemiplegia.

Due to a shortage of volunteers today I was asked to be a scoring official in the
archery competitions today. I got a crash course in point systems, shot discernment
and proper technique when marking the pulled quivers. I was so nervous but they really
needed the extra personnel so I happily obliged...I just hope I don't cost someone a medal.
:-I

Trent warms up during the practice round.


Great form, Trent!

In the foreground is Trent's friend, Darian, who also made the trip from Pennsylvania to
be here this weekend. Both Trent and Darian are using these games in hopes of qualifying
for the Nationals this year.

The wonderful thing about this competition is that there are officials and coaches who
offer their support and skills to every competitor between rounds.

Trent takes a break from the competition to be interviewed by a local TV news station. He
really is an incredible ambassador--let's hope the piece makes airtime tonight.


Several of the archers take umbrage under the tent as the late morning temperatures soar into the 80's.

Darla gets into the media action.

We're ready for our closeup! "Thumbs UP for TeamUP!"
I got word from our PR liaison that the local newspaper wanted to interview
Trent as well. They actually missed the competition and awards presentation
but they got to see Trent shoot at a target AND at the TeamUP sign; both were
perfect for the photo ops.

Trent takes aim for the cameras, complete with his newly acquired first-place medal.

Performing perfectly on-cue, Trent took dead aim at the bulls-eye with photos and video
to prove it.


Trent is really getting a crash-course in what it takes to be a media darling.
:-)
I'm so proud of our youngest TeamUP ambassador, all he really wanted to do at this moment
was to go back to the hotel swimming pool and get out of this heat, but he stayed focused and
spoke from his heart about trying to help other kids with disabilities.


Trent says goodbye to Roger, one of the event organizers...

...but not before seeing his friend, Darian, win a first place medal in his classification.
Before leaving for the day Trent wanted to shoot my newest TeamUP sign...I was all for it! With the permission of the archery range supervisor Trent took aim. He wanted to shoot right through the hole in the "P" of TeamUP, which became a running joke for the rest of the weekend when he said "I'm aiming for the P hole!" (Get it? "Pee Hole"? Hey, even if you're not 11 it's still kinda funny!)

A bit disappointed by missing the P hole, he really wasn't far off...

...I asked him if he was shooting at the lower-case "p" instead. Either way, from 30 yards out that's some mighty fine
shooting, Tex.
Immediately following the archery competition Darla took the kids to eat and was hoping for some time in the pool before they had to head to Laidley field for track & field registration. Meanwhile I took the opportunity to grab a quick bite near my hotel and download some of my photos to send to the PR team (that's when I found out  we had another interview for the afternoon--awesome!)

I got a call that another reporter wanted to meet Trent at Laidley field this afternoon. I popped into the nearest
restaurant to get some food and then quickly got on my way. I ordered the Margherita pizza above, but was
later told that the Grape & Gorgonzola pizza won "Best Dish of Charleston" 3 years in a row. 
I was also told by the waiter that the Char-grilled wings were a local favorite so I made a note to relay this
info to Jim in case we had time to come back here.

The Margherita pizza was delicious! I scarfed down one slice and packed up the
rest so I wouldn't be late meeting the next reporter.


Trent and I had some fun in the locker room of Laidley field before the reporter arrived.
You can see here that Darla found the missing comb and made sure Trent was presentable
for the next media opportunity. Trent, I almost didn't recognize you with that slick hairdo.
:-)


Once again, Trent is a dedicated professional as he readies for another interview today.

Mom is so proud while sister Ama is a bit underwhelmed. :-)
Who can blame you, Ama...afterall, there's a hotel pool with your name
on it when all of this is over. 



After the interview, Trent takes some practice Javelin throws for the camera.

Thank you, News 13, for sharing Trent's GetBackUP story and for helping to inspire other
kids with disabilities to reach for the stars. 
By the time Trent's afternoon interview was done it was late in the day...just enough time for Jim and me to join the Claytons at their hotel for a quick dip in the pool before dinner. Tomorrow would be another long day of events (and hopefully more media!) so we all were happy to wind down and relax around the pool--away from all the tourney activities and the media spotlights. 

Jim's one request this week was to make it to a West Virginia Power baseball game. Tonight was a perfect weather night so we opted to go this evening. My one caveat was that we eat dinner BEFORE the game so I'm not stuck eating popcorn and peanuts for dinner. The perfect compromise was to eat on the way to the stadium (we walked from our hotel) at a local favorite restaurant called Soho's.

Jim still wanted to sample some "ballpark food" so we opted to share the Ginger Crusted Seared Tuna...


...and the Margherita pizza (to compare with the pizza at Pies and Pints).


The pizza was fine but I had to say that the Pies and Pints Margherita was much better.
Jim had no way to compare and said that it was flavorful but not memorable.

On the other hand, our tuna app was wonderful. Perfectly cooked Ahi tuna on a bed of pickled veggies, delicious
dipping sauce and fresh ginger. YUM.

As you exit Soho's you're greeted by an amazing array of potted plants and
hanging baskets. 


Next time I'm in Charleston I'm definitely coming back to Sohos and to the adjacent greenhouses and Farmer's Market.

We walked the 4 blocks from Soho's to the baseball park. The WV Power baseball team plays in the same league as
our own beloved Greensboro Grasshoppers. Tonight the Power is playing the Kannapolis Intimidators...it was hard to
know who to root for because we're so used to rooting against both of these teams.

Thanks to a promotional freebie at the park tonight, Jim won a tattoo sleeve. In reality it's a nylon sleeve that slips over
your arm but in photos it looks pretty darn rad, dontcha think?

Speaking of "rad"...the skies tonight were beautiful and dramatic...

No filters or special effects here...this was the sky as captured by my phone.

Such intense colors!

Ironically, as we left the Power Park we learned that almost all of downtown Charleston was without power.
Apparently an underground transformer blew up and created a chain reaction of blown transformers throughout town.
Friday, May 8th:

The main story of the day was the power outages across downtown Charleston due to the blown transformer. Despite this major headline, Trent still made the news broadcasts last night. Here's a link to the story from WCHS:

http://www.wchstv.com/news/features/eyewitness-news/stories/Challenged-Sports-Championship-Competitor-Setting-Records-And-Inspiring-Others-128073.shtml#.VViQYbq3QhX

Indeed, the town of Charleston was mostly without power throughout the night and, for many businesses, throughout the next morning as well. Luckily for us, our hotel was okay but the businesses all around were shut down. We headed east of the downtown toward Laidley field until we saw "Open" signs for breakfast.




The Fruitcake Cafe was open for business, one of the few
coffee/breakfast spots that had power in the downtown vicinity.
We grabbed our coffee and breakfast bites then headed straight to the field to meet Trent and the rest of our Challenged Athletes crew. Another early morning, another steamy hot day on tap!

What a great kid! Trent is ready for another day of competition, another day of trying
to inspire other kids to live their dreams.

Thanks to Co-Cap Virginia Mamone for providing Team UP with these glasses,
Trent and Ama now are convinced that TeamUP is the best team ever. 

Trent ran the 60meter race on a bum knee. Darla is now playing "nurturing mom" and "tough coach"
as she helps Trent decide which events to compete in and which events he may need to scratch.
Meanwhile, Darian and his brother Carson are on the move between events.

Trent bounces back after the run to help spread awareness before his Field events today.
Have I mentioned yet what a fantastic ambassador he is?!!

Inspiration is everywhere at the Challenged Sports Foundation games!




Trent competes in the Javelin throw...

I was so impressed at his focus, his form and his results.

In between competitions, Trent and Darian remind
us that they're true kids at heart!



After a long wait (all the competitors went through their Track & Field events) Trent was now up at the Discus Throw.

To my own uneducated eyes, this appeared to be one of Trent's best Field events.

Priceless! Jim (who's been measuring Javelin, Discus and Shot Put events all morning) and Trent (who's been competing
in these events all morning) are finally showing that they're human after all. They found the only spot of shade on the
field as they waited for Trent to be called for the long jump.

Darla took these photos of Trent's Shot Put competition while I was helping measure other competitor's
Javelin and Discus throws.

Such amazing concentration!

Way to go, Trent!

Finally, the last of the Track and Field events for Trent this weekend. He was scheduled
to run in most of the running events tomorrow but due to a bum knee Darla felt she
needed to pull him from Track competition and save his efforts for the Nationals later in the summer.

This was my favorite event to watch...except for Archery. Trent is really great at this jump!


Check out the hang time!
Another long day of competition is in the books. Now it's "every man for himself" as we all try to grab lunch and reconvene at the University of Charleston's Aquatic Center for the swimming events later in the afternoon.


Jim and I hit the Bluegrass Kitchen around the corner from Laidley Field. We've both been
working hard volunteering and playing "media coordinator" all day and we're loving these
45 minutes out of the hot sun.
Another great venue in Charleston...

...even though it's early (11:30am) on a Friday afternoon this joint is filling up fast.


I ordered the Greek Falafel, Jim had the Mortadella Italian but before that we ordered...

...Buffalo Tofu "Wings". They were more like sticks than
wings, but they were actually quite tasty.

Jim's Italian "meat-in-your-face" sandwich.

My vegetarian Gyro. It was okay, not great, if I'm going to be completely honest.
Next stop was the University of Charleston for Trent's final swimming competitions. Here, he wasn't competing against the other swimmers but trying to beat qualifying times for the Nationals.
Darian and Trent get ready for their time trials.

Trent practices his platform dive.

Jim is in great form on the sidelines.

Carson and Ama (brother and sister of Darian and Trent) are allowed to swim in the last lane while the competition
is underway. This was a generous move by the competition organizers--on such a hot day this was a Godsend for these kids.
Because of the earlier mentioned power outages in town, Charleston's local newspaper, the Daily Mail, was delayed getting their paper out today. By lunch though it had hit the stands and Trent made the front page of the sports section--well done, Trent! I picked up some extra copies to send to the folks at Allard, USA:



Here's the link to the entire 2-page article:



Trent gets ready for his least favorite swim event, the backstroke.

Darian is strong in ALL the swim events.

They're off!
By the end of these 2 days Darla was excited to announce that Trent's scores and times were good enough to qualify him in almost every event he entered, mission accomplished! The only down side is that Trent is still nursing a bum knee so he wasn't at his best for the 60Meter run and he had to scratch all the Saturday races while he heals. Keep your chin up, Trent--you will definitely GetBackUP from that injury! I'm so proud of you and have loved spending these days with you--you're my newest inspiration.

The Clayton clan was heading straight home from the swimming events, they had a long drive back to Pennsylvania. With a very busy 2 days under our belts, Jim and I headed downtown now that the power has been restored to most of the restaurants there. As expected, Jim wanted to try the wings and "Charleston's favorite dish" at Pies & Pints:

Jim's char-grilled BBQ chicken wings...

The locals of Charleston did not steer us wrong, this Grape
& Gorgonzola (despite sounding a bit unusual) was absolutely delicious!

I found and posed this bunny in a local antiques shop. It's only
posted here because I want to see if my sister, Maria, is reading
my blog. She'll understand what this means.
:-)

Finally, in an off-the-main-drag alleyway I finally find Beth-food--just as we're leaving town.




Next time I'm in Charleston I'm coming back to Mission Savvy over and over again!

Goodbye, West Virginia.

Next stop on the TeamUP Tour is Portland, OR where we'll team up with Co-Captain Darren Smith at the Rock 'n' Roll Portland 10K and 1/2 Marathon on May 17th!