U.S. Paralympics Tra... Features A Balancing Act: Syd...

A Balancing Act: Sydney Barta Is Juggling Both High School And Achieving Her Paralympic Dream

By Sheridan Powell | Aug. 14, 2020, 5:38 p.m. (ET)

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!’” 

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.

And although she may have years of competition ahead of her, she’s got her eyes set on some big goals. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Games have pushed back her timeline a little bit, she remains ready. 

“I do feel like I was right at the point in my running career where it was going to start really taking off and getting bigger,” Barta said. “Before all of this, my goals were to qualify for the Paralympics, to medal at the Paralympics and to just keep going.” 

So while she will have to wait a few more months for her opportunity to accomplish those goals, she was able to adjust her training schedule to continue working and preparing herself. 

“I think these past few months have been really hard mentally more than anything else,” Barta explained. “Like I said, I am someone who thrives off of high pressure environments and I was really gearing up to go to my first trials and maybe my first Paralympics - so after they were postponed it was kind of like ‘What now?’ ” 

With tracks, weight rooms and schools closed in the early months of the pandemic, Barta was able to find a little extra time for some hobbies that had fallen to the wayside when her schedule was at its most intense. 

“I started playing the guitar - I think it was a couple years ago that I picked it up for the first time and started teaching myself how to play. At this point I think I’ve taught myself about everything there is to know about the guitar,” she laughed. “I’ve had time to read which is really nice, because that’s something I don’t usually have time for. And I’ve always gotten to spend a lot of really good time with my family, which has been so nice.” 

So for now, Barta continues to look on the bright side. She has been using her local track to jump back into training, and continues to keep her sights set on Tokyo.