Sydney Barta smiles atop the podium at the 2019 Lima Parapan American Games.
Sydney Barta has a lot on her plate. She’s entering her junior year of high school and plays volleyball, basketball and, of course, runs track for her school. And on top of that - she’s training to qualify for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
She spends her days at school, often followed by practices or workouts for one of her three sports. Her evenings are spent training and doing homework until late into the night and then waking up and repeating the cycle all over again.
“The way I balance it is that you have to love every part of the process, and I really do believe that,” Barta explained. “You have to love working into the wee hours of the morning, you have to love the pain - there have been so many nights that I’ve been icing my knees while I’m studying for a test the next day. I love that. That’s how I love living my life.”
However, track hasn’t always been Barta’s main focus. It was only a few years ago when she attended her first adaptive sport meet on a whim. She competed in about every track and field event she could enter, and there in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was where it clicked.
“I just felt like to have that space and community that was meant for me and meant for people like me was so special and I needed to take advantage of it,” Barta said.
But even as Barta made the decision to pursue track at a more competitive level, she wasn’t quite ready to give up the other sports in her life. So, she didn’t.
Instead, she has mastered the art of balancing training, school and a social life. She described it as the best of both worlds; training to be a Paralympian and walking through the halls as a normal high school student.
At just 16, Barta is one of the youngest members of the U.S. Paralympics National Track & Field Team. But being the youngest at the competition or on the team, isn’t new to Barta.
Since attending her first competition at just 14, she’s been one of the youngest everywhere she’s gone.
She laughed as she explained: “It’s definitely fun. I do think people give me a lot of breaks - there’s a lot of ‘Oh you’re so young, you have so much time to get better’ and ‘You have so many years ahead of you!’”