Featured Adaptive Athlete: Resident Tackles Gaylord Gauntlet

Watertown resident Jay Ross is shown tackling a balance beam with the help of his team during the Gaylord Gauntlet on Saturday, June 22.

WATERTOWN — Local resident Jay Ross, Sr., was the featured adaptive athlete for the Gaylord Gauntlet 5K trail and obstacle run on Saturday, June 22. The course, located at Gaylord’s Hospital Complex in Wallingford, is 5 kilometers long and has 24 obstacles that include mud and sand pits, climbing walls and balance beams. In June 2018, Mr. Ross was paralyzed from the waist down from a motorcycle accident. After two months of treatment and therapy at Gaylord Hospital, he was released from the hospital in a wheelchair.

Mr. Ross, who led an active life before the accident, decided not to allow his new situation to keep his spirits down.

“This situation is not going to stop me,” he said, acknowledging his disability and how he has to work hard to overcome it.

Gaylord approached him to be this year’s featured adaptive athlete and he took the opportunity.

“There is no reason why I can’t complete the race,” explained Mr. Ross. He said the other alternative was staying at home and being miserable or “I can continue to live life.”

In the weeks prior to the race, Mr. Ross and his sons, Jay Ross, Jr., and Jacob Ross, trained five times a week. Jay Ross, Jr., just graduated from Watertown High School and will be joining the Marine Corps in November. Mr. Ross appreciated the bonding that he and his sons have been able to experience the past few weeks, especially since one of his sons will be joining the service later this year.

After weeks of training and working on upper body strength, the day of the race arrived almost a year after the accident.

Gaylord gave Mr. Ross a wheelchair with large tires to help him maneuver through various challenges and mud pit obstacles.

He had the help of a personalized team to aid him though tough spots. The team included his two sons, his brother Eric Rodriguez, his physical therapist Tim Kilbride, occupational therapist Jackie Magnufzewski and outpatient physical therapist Katie Donohue.

Using his upper body strength, with the help of his team, he took to the course head on, and though his arms were tired by the first mile, he pushed onward to complete the course.

Mr. Ross faced a variety of obstacles, from crawling through a mud pit to climbing up a wall using a rope. Along the way, his sons helped him overcome obstacles and encouraged him to keep pushing as they conquered the course together.

Mr. Ross’ younger son Jacob said that the course was tough, but they all worked together.

“My kids were super helpful,” said Mr. Ross.

Mr. Ross and his team were able to complete the course in two hours and one minute, crushing the previous course record for a featured adaptive athlete by 46 minutes.

“To cross the finish line was a great feeling,” he said. “Nothing could hold me back.”

Mr. Ross thanked all those who helped him get through these tough times the past year. He was thankful for his family and his team at Gaylord who helped him recover after the accident.

As he continues to recover, Mr. Ross still has hope that he will walk again.

He continues to live life to the fullest, keeping an active lifestyle. He also plans to participate in adaptive athlete sports leagues and other athletic events.

“Life is full of obstacles,” he said, but he will not let this obstacle hold him back; his stellar performance in the Gaylord Gauntlet was a testament to that.

Mr. Ross plans to take part in the Gaylord Gauntlet next year and hopes to encourage those in similar situations to power though and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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