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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Adaptive sports program at home in D 49

The track at Sand Creek High School is the new training ground for adaptive sports athletes. John Zavada, a coach with the Boulder EXciting Programs Adventures and New Dimensions program out of Boulder, Colorado, is supervising the training. Zavada lives across the street from Sand Creek High School.According to bouldercolorado.gov, EXPAND is a program through the Boulder Parks and Recreation Department that ìhelps people who have disabilities improve and gain new recreation and leisure skills that will enhance participantsí overall well-being and their quality of life.îZavada said he found out about EXPAND through Jennifer Heilveil, founder of EXPAND and longtime friend of Zavada. ìJen found out I was living in the Springs; and, about three years ago, she reached out to me to ask if I would drive to Boulder on Saturdays to coach the track and field athletes,î he said.Working with disabled athletes is one of his passions, Zavada said. ìI grew up with a buddy who had spina bifida,î he said. ìI played wheelchair basketball with him so I kind of grew up around it.îZavada said he is grateful to Sand Creek for letting him and his athletes use their facilities for training. ìItís hard to find venues to do what we do,î he said. Many places are concerned about opening up their facilities to wheelchairs, citing concerns like wheelchairs damaging the property.ìSand Creek has been really great to accommodate our wheelchair racers, especially when not too many other places would open their facilities for people with a disability,î Zavada said.Prior to having access to Sand Creekís facilities, Zavada and his local athletes traveled to Boulder to train, he said. ìThe Springs does have an adaptive sports program, but itís very small and not a very well-known program,î Zavada said. ìThe neighbors at the track that we practice at (in Boulder) have adopted us and bring us water. Itís a really involved community and program, and the community is really aware of whatís going on.ìIím not a rich guy, but I think there needs to be an advocate for athletes with physical disabilities in the area; and, if I can take a couple hours out of my day on Tuesdays, then Iím all for it,î Zavada said. His time spent coaching in the Springs is pro bono and has allowed athletes like Jess Markt an opportunity to train.In Oregon in 1996, Markt broke his back in a car accident and is now paralyzed from the shoulders down. Markt said as an athlete prior to his accident, he didnít want his disability to keep him from competing again. He started training with Zavada for the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon, a 195-mile relay from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Markt said.ìI basically wanted to survive the relay,î he said. With training, he now has higher inspirations. Markt plans to compete in the Rock ëní Roll Marathon in Denver Oct. 19. ìNow, Iím really focusing in, and my goal is to beat the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, which is about two hours ó thatís very fast,î he said. Zavada also trains athletes for the Warrior Games, a competition for wounded service members and veterans. Through competitions like the Warrior Games and training venues like Sand Creek, Zavada said, ìWeíre reintroducing sports to wounded athletes in a safe and comfortable place.î

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