Here is a riddle to help get you through the day: A runner wins a race, but when he mounts the podium he has not one but two medals. Why?
Answer: because this is no ordinary runner. This is Travis Ricks: Cancer for College alumnus, amputee, and USA Paratriathlon National Champion! (The second “medal” was in his prosthetic leg, for those of you still working on the riddle). Yes, while cancer is a powerful deterrent, Travis’ will and determination to live life to the fullest refused be slowed down for long.
Even in high school Travis was very active, and was excited for the chance to compete in wrestling at the collegiate level, that is until he stepped into the ring against his most
formidable opponent: cancer. When he was 17 years old, Travis was diagnosed with a potentially fatal form of Osteogenic Sarcoma that attacked his knee and not only threatened to end his wrestling career but his life as well. It was at this point that Travis made the life-altering decision to amputate his leg above the knee.
No matter when cancer strikes, it always seems to go after what we hold most dear. From all the time he spent wrestling Travis knew he had two options after a blow like this: stay down or get right back up. It was not easy, but with the help of mentors like his wrestling coach Travis began to regain his footing and adjusting to life without one of his own legs. He eventually graduated from high school and, with the help of Cancer for College, went on to attend and graduate from CSU San Marcos with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2007.
It takes countless time and energy to recover from cancer, but most of all it takes the willing patience of friends to be with you to keep you going when you feel like there is nothing left in you. For Travis, that came from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which helped him achieve his dreams and live actively once again.
Now, Travis gets to do the same for other people with physical challenges as CAF’s Senior Programs Manager & Athlete Relations for the Greater San Diego Area. The projects he leads encourage other physically challenged people that they have not been given a life sentence but rather a life setback to an engaged, active, and fulfilling life.
CAF could find no better example for people than our Travis Ricks, who began competing in triathlons when he found CAF, and has since mounted the podium at the National Championships 3 times, winning gold in 2011. His goal now is to “make it to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games.” The road to Rio starts at the Paratriathlon World Championships in Chicago on September 15-19. However, no matter what the results of that race, Travis is already guaranteed to go to Rio as a member of the USA Sitting Volleyball team.
So, next time you are in San Diego, make sure to say hi to Travis. Better yet, join him at a CAF event, cheer for him during the Paralympics next summer, or just ask him to take you to his favorite place for burgers and beer. But be quick! This Cancer for College alumnus is taking everything life has to offer, and running with it!