Bliss team places: 21,000 compete to promote Army, build espirit de corps
Sgt. Valerie Lopez,
Headquarters 1st AD Public Affairs:
Every year the Military District of Washington hosts an Army Ten-Miler race to promote the Army, build espirit de corps, support Army fitness goals and enhance community relations.
“The ATM is an event that brings runners from all over the world,” said Staff Sgt. Lawrence Smith, Team Bliss Signal Center of Excellence noncommissioned officer in charge and a coach for the Fort Bliss Team. “It is a positive event that allows Soldiers to represent their installation and city. It’s also a fundraiser for the [Family and] Morale Welfare and Recreation.”
“This is an extremely competitive race involving the fastest runners in the Army and international teams,” said Lt. Col. David Shank, commander, 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
More than 21,000 people registered for the ATM. Of all the teams that competed, the Fort Bliss team placed in the top 4 in different team challenges: the male team placed 4th, the master’s team – consisting of persons over age 40 – placed 2nd and the female team placed 3rd.
“We all come from different parts of the Army,” said Spc. Franchesca Quintana, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division. “It’s good to get us together and do what we all kind of love.”
Quintana joined the team this year. She said, “It’s an important race. Only once a year, Soldiers come together from every post to compete against one another and see who’s the best.”
Shank, who has been on the team for three years, saw the races as a challenge.
“It’s an opportunity to test myself against younger troops,” said Shank.
While preparing for the ATM, the team trained six days a week. Some of the members also used Team Bliss intramurals and El Paso community races to evaluate their progress before the ATM.
“We ran 50 to 60 miles per week training for the ten-miler,” said Quintana. “We had two pre-qualifiers, one in May and one August. The one in August [guaranteed] the top five spots for the Fort Bliss team.”
Spc. Stephen Czupryna, intelligence analyst at HSC, HHB, 1st AD, placed 55th overall out of the 21,000 runners. He started training last year to make the team and ran both races in May and in August.
“I ran a good race and made the team,” said Czupryna. “We started training right after the qualifier in May. It was good to get a strong workout every morning; I loved it.”
During the race, runners had lots of support: bands were playing, people cheered and teammates encouraged each other.
“It helps to have all that support for the runners,” said Czupryna. “There was a lot of support from the community, the Army, other military personnel and their families.”
“Being part of the team was the best part of competing in the ATM,” said Quintana “I loved it. I was not a distance runner but I became one.”
Both Quintana and Czupryna plan to be part of the team next year; but one team member and coach will be moving on to new adventures.
Smith, one of the coaches, has been on the Fort Bliss team since 2003 and coached for the past six years.
“I thought the coaches did a phenomenal job this year,” said Shank. “They produced individual training plans based on individual runner abilities and provided input and advice when needed.
“Smith’s encouragement added value to the entire team,” said Shank. “He’s been a huge impact to Team Bliss and the city of El Paso. He leaves with a great reputation.”
As a runner for the past 26 years, Smith’s experience and passion for running left an impression on the team members.
“Coach Smith is going to be missed,” said Quintana. “It will be different; he really loves to run and has been a big part of our team.”
As Smith retires and moves to Ohio, he said he would pass the reigns to coach Ganstad.
“It was a great honor representing this installation and city for the last eight years,” said Smith. “I had great times with all the teams and I thank those who supported us through the years. To the Team Bliss ATM, thank you for competing. Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”
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