Jarryd Wallace was honored as the Para Male Athlete of the Year by USA Track & Field.
Dec. 18, 2013
ATHENS-----Jarryd Wallace thought he was just getting a free breakfast while attending the 2013 USA Track & Field Annual Meeting in Indianapolis recently. It turned out he was honored as the Para Male Athlete of the Year.
Olympic legend Dan O'Brien was the master of ceremonies at the breakfast on Dec. 7 that honored outstanding achievements of masters, long-distance, race walking and elite athletes from USA Track & Field (USATF).
"Earlier this year, I was asked to go to the USATF meeting in December and speak about the Paralympics," Wallace said. "It was a huge honor to have that audience and humbling to meet some of the best athletes of the past and present. Track and field athletes have seen Paralympic athletes but don't completely know about Paralympics so it was an opportunity to educate and get them excited about what we're doing. After I spoke, I got a call about being a guest at a breakfast the next day and to just bring a sport coat. I heard free breakfast so I went. It was a surprise."
Wallace's presentation came during one of the Athlete Advisory Committee sessions, and he shared his vision of how collectively athletes can better the sport of track and field. One day, he hopes the Paralympic athletic competitions will be part of an overall meet and not at separate events and locations. For example, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field will be in Eugene, Ore, and during the scheduled off days, Wallace would like to see the Paralympic Trials take place. However, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials already is the largest national championship track meet in the world with more than 1,000 athletes competing. Still, Wallace said the Paralympic team trials would take only two days.
"That's my vision, and I was encouraged by the response I got from the athletes," Wallace said. "I got involved in the Paralympic movement to make a difference not just to be a Paralympian. I've seen both sides, and I think that helps me."
Despite being a relative newcomer to the Paralympic world, Wallace has experienced tremendous success. This past October in New York, the United States Olympic Committee honored Wallace as he was part of the "Paralympic Team of the Year." He was a member of the gold-medal winning relay team at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, in July. The team set a world-record time of 40.73, and he won gold in the T44 200 event. Wallace participated in the 2012 London Paralympic Games too.
In the future, USATF may open a seat on the Athlete Council for a Paralympic member. Wallace said he hopes to be considered if that opportunity arises.
A former state-ranked athlete in both track and tennis at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville, Ga., Wallace signed a track scholarship with the Bulldogs in 2007. However, due to compartment syndrome in his right leg and subsequent surgeries, he was never able to compete. In February of 2010, he made the decision to have his leg amputated with the goal of not just being able to run again but to compete one day as a Paralympian. In 2012, he earned the University of Georgia Athletic Association Inspiration Award.
For more on Wallace, go to www.aleginfaith.com.