Meet our featured athletes
Adventure Team Challenge Colorado includes exceptional athletes from all backgrounds. Here are profiles of a few athletes who have competed in past Challenges.
Jillian Harpin grew up in Wolcott, Connecticut and graduated with a degree in finance from Bentley University. She was a typical 23 year old, working as a financial analyst, enjoying life and spending time hiking outside with her friends. In April 2016, she fell off of a third story balcony while on vacation in Mexico and sustained a spinal cord injury. This left her paralyzed from the waist down. “I was exposed to adaptive sports early on during my time in the hospital and came to realize that staying active was going to play a huge role in my effort of not letting my injury defeat me,” Harpin said. “Once I got home, I joined an adaptive gym and started building up my strength and training in a hand cycle. I signed up for a 5K, then a 10K, and then a half marathon. I’m far more active and even happier now than I was before my injury.” Jillian started rock climbing last year and reports she fell in love with the sport and “how much of a bad ass I felt while doing it.” Following the completion of an obstacle course race called the Gaylord Gauntlet in June 2018, she was encouraged by Erik Kondo to join the Adventure Team Challenge. “Since my injury, I’ve been trying to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way and I continue to surprise even myself with how far I’ve come in the past two years and how much I can accomplish with the right group of people alongside me!”
In 2011 Carlos was introduced to adaptive sports by a fellow disabled Marine Veteran who encouraged him to take up cycling. This helped him rehabilitate quickly from a double knee replacement and in 2019, he logged over 18,000 Strava miles on his recumbent! It has also helped lose over 90 pounds he had gained as a result of medications.
Among his most memorable miles each year are those with Face of America Gettysburg. “Face of America is my favorite event each year. World Team Sports has given me the opportunity to engage muscle memory that I once thought I had lost and enjoy a much better quality of life.”
Leslie Kindling was born and raised in Pennsylvania where she played soccer and ran track and field while in school. Attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Leslie was a member of the varsity soccer team for three years and earned nine All-American honors in track and field. She took up to rock climbing and triathlon while in graduate school at the University of Oregon. As a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, she maintains an active lifestyle with her primary athletic activities changing along with her duty station. She has competed running races from 55 meters up to 100 miles and three adventure races with World T.E.A.M. since 2016.
Katie Hoyle began as a volunteer with World T.E.A.M. at the 2016 Adventure Team Challenge, and was immediately hooked. Impressed by the inclusivity and teamwork displayed in Colorado, she continued to be involved with World T.E.A.M., working on Face of America Gettysburg and taking on a lead role in the planning of the 2017 Adventure Team Challenge. After again volunteering at Face of America in 2018, she decided it was time for her to transition to an athlete. She registered for the 2018 Adventure Team Challenge as member of the “Grapes of Raft” team. The event changed her life. “My teammates supported me through the event, and encouraged me when I was convinced I couldn’t do something,” Katie said. “Facing my fear and wiping away my tears, I owned that rappel! This is just a small part of why we were named ‘Most Supportive’ team.” Katie works for an association in Washington, D.C. as a Program Manager. She shares her story whenever she can, hoping to encourage more people to become engaged with World T.E.A.M.
Navy veteran PJ Walsh has competed in Adventure Team Challenge three times since 2015, once finishing first with a team of Marines. A skilled dental technician, while stationed in Bethesda, Maryland, Walsh provided dental care to members of the nation’s executive branch, including President Bill Clinton and his family. Walsh currently earns a living as a professional stand-up comedian. He travels extensively overseas providing entertainment to active-duty service members who are often in harm’s way. A two-time competitor in NBC Television’s popular America Ninja Warriors, Walsh finds the Adventure Team Challenge to be one of his favorite outdoor competitions. Read about PJ’s first Adventure Team Challenge competition in 2015.
Massachusetts athlete Gina Utegg is no stranger to World T.E.A.M. As a volunteer to the non-profit organization following an automobile accident, she saw first-hand how sporting activities help improve lives of individuals who live with disabilities. It took a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2009, followed by surgery, chemo and radiation treatments, to convince her that participating as an athlete could also help her. The following year, she rode her first Face of America, finishing near the end of the pack. She’s now an annual participant. Her improved fitness through exercise allowed her to join Colorado’s Adventure Team Challenge with other adaptive athletes from across the nation. Watch Gina Utegg talk about competing in Colorado’s difficult Challenge.
Send us your story
Are you competing in Adventure Team Challenge Colorado and have a remarkable personal story about your background you would like to share? Email us your story and attach a high definition digital image. Selected stories will be added to our Featured Athlete page and may be expanded for a story on our World T.E.A.M. site.