Infantryman Takes Silver in DoD Warrior Games Shot Put

Army trials team tryouts and coaches for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games huddle before basketball practice on Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2015.(U.S. Army photo/EJ Hersom)
Army trials team tryouts and coaches for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games huddle before basketball practice on Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2015.(U.S. Army photo/EJ Hersom)
QUANTICO, Va. -- During his inaugural competition at the Department of Defense Warrior Games track and field events, June 23, veteran Army infantryman Spc. Haywood Range III was able to take home a silver medal in shot put. Range competed in men's standing shot put, and competed with a 5-pound shot put. "It feels great," Range said. "I just went to [the] U.S. Nationals Paralympics and didn't do as well as I wanted to do and came back here to [the] Warrior Games and it really all just came together for me. I've only been to a couple of meets, so trying to get the nerves out of me each meet I go, finally this one, it's all starting to click and it worked for me." The Team Army athlete said he out-ranged most of his opponents in the shot put competition by, according to his estimates, nearly 3 meters. Still, Marine Corps veteran Cpl. Gabriel Beltres out-puted Range by about .56 meters, or 22 inches -- and took home the gold. Range said he hasn't competed at this level before. Early in the day of the track and field competition he said he was anxious about how he'd do -- but he steeled his resolve and went in for the kill. "I was a little tired, but once we got going that competitive nature just comes out - you don't even feel the pain anymore and you just go," he said. "The adrenaline starts to go and you just go." In addition to his silver-winning performance at the shot put, the medically-retired Range competed in the men's classified 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 1,500 meter track events, as well as in the discus event. He will compete in the men's classified 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke as well, June 27. During the Army Trials, March 29 through April 2, the Army chose who would compete in the 2015 DOD Warrior Games as part of Team Army. Range made the cut. During the Army Trials, Range earned gold medals in the men's classified track 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter. This is Range's first year competing at the Army Trials and at the Warrior Games. During the trials, in El Paso, Texas, Range was already feeling good about his prospects at the Warrior Games. "I feel confident," he said. "I trained my butt off back home in Jupiter, Florida. I've been running at least three to six miles every other day. I got some weights and started lifting. I got a shot put and discus at home and started putting in some time." Range was injured during a combat training exercise Sept. 2, 2012, when his Humvee rolled and pinned his arm. He said he can't remember how many surgeries he's had. "I just know when I woke up, my arm wasn't there," he said. Haywood said adaptive sports gave him a new purpose. "After the accident, I was laying in my hospital bed, wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life," he said. "When I got to Fort Sam Houston [in Texas], they introduced me to adaptive sports, and I was like, 'Gosh, I can compete again.' I got involved with rowing, with shot put and discus, track, and swimming. I just fell in love with it. It's amazing. God is so good to me. He really is. I appreciate everything he's done for me." Haywood said he doesn't look at his fellow Soldiers as competitors. "It's a competition, but I look at us as a family," he said. "We're here to compete against each other, but we're a Family. The camaraderie is so great here. We're a brotherhood and sisterhood. It's really special to me." Haywood, always with a smile on his face or a chuckle in his voice, said adaptive sports have made him more resilient. "They put me in a relaxed state," he said. "This is something I really enjoy, not just competing but getting to meet other athletes and understanding their injuries and what they've overcome. We all just push each other and motivate each other. We just bond so well together. It's an amazing feeling." He credits the coaches with his success both on the track and with his progress in the pool. "They help us get better and as an athlete, you've got to love that," Haywood said. "You've got to want to be better. There's always room for improvement." The Army Team's head swim coach, Glen O'Sullivan, has helped Haywood by showing him how to use his whole body in the pool. O'Sullivan has been coaching Paralympic athletes for several years. "Haywood Range came in not believing in his swimming ability," O'Sullivan said. "But within a short period of time, his strokes improved. His drive and determination pushed him into many 'aah hah' moments." Range's teammate, Capt. Steve Bortle, said he was impressed by Range's drive to improve in the pool as well. "Watching Haywood swim and put the effort in, that's motivating," Bortle said. Haywood suggests for any wounded warriors, who may be having trouble with motivation, to "keep faith, surround yourself with good people, people who are going to motivate, get you out of that hospital bed or whatever dark spot you're in, surround yourself with those types of people, and I believe you'll go far. I really do," he said. The veteran said the medals are nice but at the end of the day, the competition is more about overcoming adversity. "Some of us aren't full-bodied, some of us are, but we've got different things going on that we've overcome, our stresses, our negatives about ourselves. This competition is about us overcoming those things," Haywood said. "It's about us overcoming our injuries or our illnesses to better ourselves and to show we still have purpose. We still keep fighting the good fight, we're not going to let these injuries or these illnesses overcome us; we're going to overcome them. And it's going to help us to just push further in life."

(Editor's note: This story has been corrected. Range earned a silver. The original story erroneously reported he had won gold.) 

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