In its 36-year history, Adaptive Sports USA had never held its Junior Nationals competition in the Twin Cities.
That’s about to change.
“I thought we needed to host,” said Eden Prairie’s Mark Gagstetter, “and I thought Eden Prairie would be the perfect location. Not only do we have great facilities, but you wouldn’t have to travel between venues.”
This year’s event (July 14-19) will be headquartered at the Great Wolf Lodge hotel next to the Mall of America. The majority of the athletic events will be held in Eden Prairie.
Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals is the largest longstanding annual multi-sport event for youth with a physical disability and/or visual impairment in the United States.
Junior Nationals has traveled to a different host city annually since its inception in 1984. It was held in Minnesota once before, 2013 in Rochester.
The week-long national sports championship is open to athletes through the age of 22 and includes educational clinics, socials, and competition in archery, paratriathlon, powerlifting, shooting (airguns), swimming and track and field. National classification will be available in archery, swimming and track and field.
“Track and field events, along with opening and closing ceremonies, will be held at the Eden Prairie High School stadium,” said Gagstetter. “The swimming events will be held in the Eden Prairie Community Center pool, archery on the soccer field beside the baseball field.”
An estimated 200-300 competitors are expected to travel to Minnesota for the competition.
“They qualified at different regional events throughout the country,” said Susan Rossi, executive director, Adaptive Sports USA. “In Minnesota, they’ll compete for National Championships.”
International competition would be the next level.
“Nationals is a stepping stone,” said Rossi. “It starts at the local level, steps to Regionals and then Nationals.
“For a lot of the top athletes,” she added, “they move on to international or Paralympic competitions.”
At Nationals, prizes are awarded for first, second and third place.
Gagstetter cut his track teeth coaching at Minneapolis Washburn. He’s been a track and field official since 1982.
“I became involved in the Paralympics as an official,” he said. “As a skier, I’ve worked with the Courage Kenny program.
“The athletes are amazing,” said Gagstetter, “and I feel blessed to be involved.”
Gagstetter is a member of the 2019 organizing committee.
The event begins Sunday, July 14.
Opening ceremonies, at Eden Prairie’s Aerie Stadium, are scheduled to begin 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 16.
Spectators are welcome. The event is open to the general public and admission is free.
There is still a need for volunteers. For information, go to adaptivesportsusa.org.