Team Achilles CT: 2013 in Review

January 1, 2014

THE JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH A SINGLE STEP…

2013 was a tremendous year of growth and success for the CT Chapter of Achilles International. In February, Erin Spaulding took over the reins from Tony Allegretti and became the Chapter President. Achilles International Founder Dick Traum signed the

Charter and we became an official Chapter!

In March, the Chapter Leadership Team was established with Erin Spaulding as President, Chris Love, Treasurer, and Tracy Andrews, Secretary. In August, an Advisory Board comprised of Beth Shluger, Hartford Marathon Foundation; Rosemary Hokanson, Glastonbury River Runners; Katie Joly, Gaylord Adaptive Sports Program; April

Chevalier, Greater Hartford YMCA; and athletes Tony Allegretti, Jen Gonzalez, and Molly Carta, met for the first time.

The CT Chapter is unlike other Achilles International Chapters that are based in cities, so it made sense to organize the Chapter by regions and appoint Regional Coordinators. Tony Allegrett ioversees Western CT; Diane Amato, Hartford and Northern CT; Tracy Andrews, Greater New Haven; Molly Carta, Central CT, Jen Gonzalez, Fairfield County, and Kelly Weed, Shoreline and Eastern CT. Jen and Tracy have worked hard to collaborate with athletes, volunteers, and race directors in their regions, as well as organized regular trainings, meet-ups and races. Other Regional Coordinators have provided support at larger Chapter events that they attended. Thank you all for the hard work this year!

This year saw the Chapter growing its database of athletes and volunteers as well! To date, here are the statistics: Fairfield County has 10 athletes and 27 volunteers; Hartford/Northern CT has 13 athletes and 35 volunteers; New Haven has 7 athletes and 13 volunteers; Shoreline/Eastern CT has 4 athletes and 8 volunteers; and Western CT has 5 athletes and 3 volunteers! In total, Achilles CT has 39 registered athletes and 86 active volunteers!

With the establishment of the Chapter Leadership Team and Advisory Board an infrastructure for the Chapter was built. We opened our own bank account through TD Bank CT, and our first deposit came from funds raised by Chris and Bridget Love on their journey to Ironman Lake Placid. Chris created an online fundraising page for Achilles CT through YouCaring.com, which is linked directly to our new website that was launched thanks to the hard work of Monica Guy(www.achillesct.org).

The Chapter Leadership Team and Advisory Board are currently engaged in strategic planning, fundraising, and grant writing. In addition to funds raised by Chris and Bridget, donations this year have come from the Glastonbury River Runners, Marsh & McLennan Companies, The Gibney Family Foundation, and Cigna, in addition to personal donations. Lastly, David Hoffman of HJ Hoffman Co. worked with us to outfit the Chapter in the sporty neon yellow Achilles CT shirts we all so proudly wear (and became a guide in the process)!

OFF TO THE RACES!

Achilles CT athletes and guides also had a successful and inspiring racing season in 2013! Representing Connecticut at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January was Erin Spaulding, who finished her first half marathon, with guides Michael Lo Presti and her husbandMichael! Next up was the NYC Half Marathon in March for Colleen Kelly Alexander, supported along the way by the incredible Matt Long!

At the Cheshire Half Marathon in April were Mike Loura, Tracy Andrews with guide Nina Purslow, and Colleen Kelly Alexander with support from her husband Sean. With help from volunteer Chris Love we set up an Achilles CT tent/table in the expo area and also used the tent for athlete support pre- and post-race.

In May, Colleen Kelly Alexander, along with guides Patti Clarke and Chris Love, competed inthe Ten Penny Ale Shamrock Duathlon. Athletes Colleen and Brett Sloan represented the team at the Iron Horse Half Marathon and 5K at the beginning of June. Despite the heat & humidity both did very well, in fact Brett placed 4th in his age group in the 5K!

On June 30th, Tony Allegretti, Brett Sloan, Brett Flynn, Amy Dixon, and Erin Spaulding headed to NYC for the Achilles International Hope & Possibility Race in Central Park. Erin even had the honor to be invited to the Gala the night before and was also personally asked to run with Trisha Meili, the Founding Chairman of Achilles and author of I Am the Central Park Jogger.

In July, Brett Sloan finished the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon with the NYC Achilles Tri Team…his first Olympic distance tri! Chris and Bridget Love also became Ironmen/women at the Lake Placid Ironman at the end of July (while raising $2,800 for the Chapter through First Giving).

In August, Brett Flynn and Brett Sloan competed in the Niantic Bay Triathlon. Colleen Kelly Alexander finished her first Half Ironman, with support from Chris Love, at Timberman 70.3 in New Hampshire!

Jen Gonzalez and David Solano have been a racing pair this spring as well, running together at many local events in Fairfield County, including the Newtown Road Race in August.  September brought Jen Gonzalez, Tony Allegretti, Brett Sloan, Mike Loura, and Erin Spaulding together to race the Dave Parcells Madison Triathlon in partnership with the Gaylord Paratriathlon Team! Brenda Adelson and Tom Branchaud were on the team as well but injured on race day. Way to represent Achilles CT!

The signature Team Achilles CT event for the CT Chapter 2013 racing season was the Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon, 5K and Relay on Saturday, October 12 in Bushnell Park. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Chris & Bridget Love, the Chapter sponsored athletes Tom Branchaud, Tony Allegretti, and David Alejandro in the full marathon, Tracy Andrews, Jen Gonzalez, and Brett Sloan in the half marathon, and Erin Spaulding and Amy Dixon in the 5K. Becoming “first-timers” were Tom, Jen, and Brett! The athletes were supported by guides Sue Grigley (Tom), Abbey Downing (Tony), Dave Hayes and John Shepherd (David), Jamie Andrews and Chet Balint (Tracy), Bob Palmer (Brett), Stephanie Timpone (Jen), Kevin Koonz (David), Patti Clarke (Amy) and Michael Lo Presti and Diane Amato (Erin). Lynn Healy held down the fort at the athlete support tent and was instrumental behind the scenes! Thanks to a collaboration with Hartford Marathon Foundation, the Adaptive Sports Programs at Gaylord and The Hospital for Special Care, and the Greater Hartford YMCA, the guidelines for athletes with disabilities were revised this year to be more inclusive. This is the first year in the 20th running of the Hartford Marathon that hand cycles are allowed in the full marathon, and separate divisions and awards are created to recognize the variety of disabled athletes participating!

We were so proud of our very own CT volunteers Chris & Bridget Love, who were selected by the Hartford Marathon Foundation as recipients of the 2013 Elite Inspiration Award! They were nominated by members of the Board of Achilles CT for their long-time dedication to Achilles CT Chapter and for their fundraising efforts to give back to the Achilles community.

New athlete Rob DeLuca represented Achilles CT at the Weston Reservoir Run Half Marathon, also in October. Rob also ran with Jen Gonzalez and David Solano in a number of local races in Fairfield County throughout the fall! Regional coordinator Jen Gonzalezcollaborated with the Stratford YMCA to host monthly meetings and workouts to keep the Fairfield County athletes and guides motivated and active!

November was a busy month as well! Tony Allegretti represented Achilles CT at the New York City Marathon, competing in his 4th marathon in his hand cycle!

In collaboration with the Glastonbury River Runners, 11 athletes were at the starting line of the Race for the Pantry! Tony Allegretti, led the hand cycle pack of Krzystof Zybowski and fellow push rim racers Geoff Matestky and Tom Branchaud. David Alejandro, Tracy Andrews, and Alicia Novi joined Rob DeLuca, Brett Sloan, and Erin Spaulding, at the starting line. New member Rosita Cascudo walked in her first race EVER! A big thank you to guides Chet & Twila Balint, Chris Deneen, April Chevalier, Jon Romeo, Heather Freeman, Diane Amato, Grit Rorrio, and Lisa Greenwood. With the exception of Chet and Diane, this was also their first time guiding an athlete! Thank you for all that you did to support your athlete in the race!

Tracy Andrews led a team at the Hot Coco 5K in Cheshire the week before Thanksgiving. Athletes Tracy, Alicia Novi, Krys Zybowski, David Alejandro, Rob Deluca, and Tom Branchaud were supported by guides Nina Purslow, Jon Romeo, Chet and Twila Balint, Cindy Drozd, Sue Grigely, and Stacia Cardillo!

Wrapping up the 2013 season were athletes Amy Dixon and Tracy Andrews running the Christopher Martin’s Run for the Kids in New Haven two weeks before Christmas! Tracy and Amy braved the cold temperatures for a fundraiser for the Toy Closet program at Yale-New Haven Children’s athletes, showing that not only are Achilles CT athletes tough and determined, but generous of heart as well!

IN THE SPOTLIGHT…

Not only are Achilles CT athletes, volunteers and guides fierce competitors out on the racecourse, they are also quite accomplished! In addition to the previously mentioned off-road accomplishments, other athletes and guides are famous in print and on TV! Chris Love and Tracy Andrews appeared in a spot on NBC CT the week of the Hartford Marathon, and Erin Spaulding and Michael Lo Presti were interviewed live on WFSB Channel 3! Brett Sloan was also featured in the July issue of USA Triathlon Magazine! Erin Spaulding and Colleen Kelly Alexander appeared in separate Runner’s World magazine issues this year, and Erin Spaulding’s story as an Achilles athlete was also featured in the national Cigna GO YOU campaign in November. Amy Dixon’s story was beautifully told in an article in the Wall Street Journal, about her successful career as The Blind Sommelier and as a Para athlete. Amy recently learned that she is joining the ranks with Hines Ward, Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae and Chris Lieto, becoming a sponsored athlete of TriPainRelief and Got Chocolate Milk Team Refuel!

Congratulations on a successful 2013 racing season to the amazing Achilles CT athletes, and a huge thank you to the dedicated guides and volunteers for helping them achieve their goals and dreams!

Stay tuned for more great Achilles CT events in 2014! This year will be hard to beat!

January 1, 2014

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