Athlete Testimonials

Learn firsthand how Team USA athletes have grown and developed through our country’s college sports system.

Trenten Merrill Azusa Pacific // Para track & field

Why did you choose your college,  and what did you like most about being a student-athlete there?

"I first started competing at Saddleback Community College where I was able to experience the support from a coach and training that a school team can offer. Mark Wetmore, head coach at Saddleback College, was very supportive of my dreams of making the U.S. Paralympic team. I knew I wanted to move to another college with a similar experience. After being accepted into a university whose coaches came back letting me know that I was considered a liability in their eyes, my heart sank and I had to decide whether I was still going to chase my dreams. I decided to prove to myself and others that I’m more than a liability, I am capable of competing at an elite level! I trained tirelessly doing two-a-days by myself and a few days I would talk a couple buddies into working out with me. One day, I was having a hard time trying to figure life out and I reached into my closet under a stack full of clean shirts where I found an Azusa Pacific University track & field shirt. I had received it one summer at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) camp volunteering where a fellow Azusa alumni gave me his training shirt before I left. I wore it to the gym and suddenly my Pandora radio station kept playing commercials for Azusa Pacific University (APU). Later that week, I was watching YouTube videos and stumbled across Bryan Clay training for the 2012 Olympic Trials at APU. It was during this time that I began being open to transferring to other schools so I could train with a team and grow as a student-athlete. I emailed a few other colleges, but when I emailed Kevin Reid at Azusa Pacific University I got an immediate response and an immediate appointment to meet him at the school. From our first encounter, I knew it was going to be a great fit! When I joined this team at APU, what I liked most was the family aspect. All of the coaches were very supportive and did a good job of creating a healthy environment to train and focus on and off the track. I was treated just like the other athletes, and as a disabled athlete that was important to me. I didn't want to be treated differently, I wanted to do all the same workouts and be pushed beyond my limits just like everyone else. The opportunity that was given to me by coaches Kevin Reid and Mike Barnett lead to much of the success I have had thus far in my career! The coaches didn't look at me as a liability but looked at me as an asset to the team providing work ethic despite my disability. They saw the opportunity to train me as a fun challenge and helped me reach my goals of making the Paralympic team."

How did competing collegiately help prepare you for competing on Team USA?

"Competing with the APU team on a weekly basis, where I went through the different training cycles as a student-athlete, taught me a lot about time management and focusing on goals. I was challenged mentally to push myself and beat my able-bodied training partners and competitors. I grew in mental fortitude and resilience. I developed a workhorse mentality telling myself I can do this with one foot and I can do more than them. I took on the role as the underdog and used it to drive my ambitions of making my first U.S. Paralympic team."

How did (or will) going to college prepare you for life?

"The expectations imposed upon me for assignments impacted me the most. I found that my standards for my own work performance and that of others were much higher than what I was experiencing immediately after college. This allowed me to better evaluate who I would hire or let go. Preparing for finals and midterms taught me how to stay up late, wake up early and still find time to train. I have already experienced this stress after college and am comfortable being able to repeat as needed."