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Mount St. Mary's Paralympians Excel and Inspire

Raimondo Partito
Graduate Assistant, Marketing and Communications

Catherine “Annie” Carey, a freshman track-and-field athlete, and Hannah Sloan, a senior swimming team member, have much in common. Both are Paralympic athletes who compete at a high level, inspire others and advocate for the Paralympic community. These exceptional student-athletes epitomize the Mount's commitment to fostering excellence and inclusivity. Mount coaches are helping Carey and Sloan train for both NCAA and Paralympic competition.

annie-carey-pic-in-text.jpgCarey, born with a left club foot, has already helped contribute to the Mount track and field team, earning points with a fifth-place finish at the indoor Father Diamond Invitational at George Mason University in February. During the November 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, she secured bronze medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, as well as the long jump. As a high school student, Carey won national titles in the T44 category at the 2022 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships, in the process setting a national and world record in the long jump and a national record in the 200-meter dash. Carey seeks to compete in the Paralympic Games, the pinnacle of Paralympic competition, as soon as this summer in Paris.

As a member of the USA Para Team, Sloan, who was born with cerebral palsy, has persevered and shown leadership in rising to the top of her sport. Her prowess in the pool was especially evident in the Para Swimming World Series in April 2022, where she competed in five events in the S9 class and finished fifth in the 200 IM, sixth in the 400 free and ninth in the 100 free. At the 2023 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships, she competed in seven events, achieving a 5th-place finish in the 200-meter IM as well as 7th place in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke. At the 2022 national championships, Sloan's contributions were pivotal in her team's triumph in the event’s mixed 400 LC meter medley relay, as they placed first and earned 34 points.

Sloan and her teammates set the American record in the women’s 4 x 50-meter freestyle and medley relays at a competition in Baltimore in March 2022. Sloan is training for the 2024 Paralympic Swimming Trials in Minnesota in June. Her goal is to compete in swimming at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris and/or 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles. Throughout her time at the Mount, Sloan's coaches, including then Assistant Coach Marissa Frollo and Head Coach Neil Yost, have accompanied her to her Para meets,

embarking on the Paralympic Journey

Carey's journey into Paralympic sports commenced at the age of seven. Exploring various sports, including not only track and field but also swimming and Nordic skiing, Carey’s fascination with the Paralympics was ignited by a poignant television moment witnessed by her mother. Since then, she has actively participated in Paralympic events, driven by her dream of competing in the Paralympic Games.

hannah-sloan-with-teammates-in-text.jpgSloan initially swam as therapy for her condition, which affects balance, coordination and muscle power and tone. She transitioned to competitive swimming for Merritt Athletics during her first year of high school at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Maryland. The 2016 Rio Paralympics served as a pivotal moment, revealing to Sloan the boundless possibilities within the Paralympic Games. Her coaches at the Mount, particularly Head Coach Neil Yost and former Assistant Coach Marissa Frollo, have worked with Sloan on tweaking her technique and improving her stamina and have accompanied her to Para competitions.

Both Carey and Sloan draw inspiration from the achievements of their predecessors. Witnessing individuals with disabilities break barriers and make history fuels their determination to follow in their footsteps. Their resilience in the face of challenges is evident as they navigate a landscape where adaptive programs are scarce, and recognition is often elusive.

Carey has been “facing these challenges of a left clubfoot since birth,” she said. Born in China, she was adopted by Geoff and Sarah Carey of Idaho when she was 20 months old. Seeking medical advice, her family consulted a doctor who gently manipulated her left foot forward until it was ready for serial casting and subsequent surgery, which involved severing the Achilles tendon to facilitate toe movement. A side effect of the procedure was nerve damage, necessitating Carey to wear an ankle-foot orthosis. She has proudly represented the United States in three global track and field events tailored for athletes with physical disabilities. Her journey began at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, followed by a bronze medal in the 100-meter race at the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland and most recently three bronze medals at the 2023 Parapan American Games.

Carey and Sloan both believe that transitioning between able-bodied and Paralympic teams and adapting to new environments has honed their resilience and determination.

Balancing Commitments

annie-carey-us-flag-in-text.jpgManaging the demands of training, competition and academic pursuits can be challenging. Carey, a sport management major, strategically structures her schedule to accommodate rigorous training sessions while ensuring her academic commitments are met. The 2024 Paralympic year has added a new layer of complexity, prompting Annie to focus on stress management while juggling social engagements. She is training for the U.S. Paralympic trials in California in July and the Paralympic Games in Paris in August. “At present, I'm in the process of finding ways to navigate the increased demands, particularly with the Paralympic year ahead. The upcoming period feels notably more demanding than previous years,” she said. “As I approach this pivotal year, managing heightened stress levels is becoming a focal point. Despite this, my overall situation remains manageable. Additionally, balancing social commitments as a teenage girl adds another aspect to my priorities."

Carey is grateful for the support of Director of Cross Country, Track and Field Jay Phillips, Assistant Coach Roger An and Head Coach/Cross Country Josh Poole. “It really means a lot to me that these coaches not only want me to succeed in my able-bodied career, but also in my adaptive one,” Carey said. “The coaches here at the Mount are always investing in what I’m doing and take the time to adjust my training to what’s best for me.”

Raising Awareness and Offering Advice

hannah-sloan-in-pool-in-text.jpgCarey and Sloan advocate for greater recognition and understanding of the Paralympic movement. They emphasize the distinction between the Paralympics and the Special Olympics, underscoring the achievements of Paralympic athletes as Olympians in their own right. Sloan explained that "the Paralympic movement is inspiring, distinct from the Special Olympics. We are Olympians in our own right, yet often lack the recognition that our able-bodied counterparts get, although the gap is closing.”

"As I grow older, I hope to raise awareness. Many Paralympic athletes excel at college-level feats yet face misconceptions and stigma. We're often overlooked until proven otherwise,” Carey said. Both Sloan and Carey hope to raise awareness and dispel misconceptions surrounding disability in sports, fostering a more inclusive and accepting society.

annie-carey-long-jump-in-text.jpgCarey envisions herself as a mentor and advocate within the Paralympic community, leveraging her journey to inspire others. “Leveraging my background and personal journey, I seek to inspire and support others. On a personal level, I aspire to secure fulfilling employment where my skills are utilized effectively, enabling me to sustain myself financially and pursue my goals with independence," she said.

Beyond competing, Sloan, a psychology major, aspires to guide the next generation of athletes as a mentor. “I aim to serve as a relatable figure, offering support and inspiration to young athletes who may identify with my journey,” she said. “Drawing from my own experiences with past mentors, I understand the significance of having someone to emulate and aspire to."

The student athletes’ advice for aspiring Paralympic athletes is simple yet profound: embrace the journey, avoid undue pressure and reconnect with the passion that ignited their love for sports. Carey touched on the importance of embracing the journey at any age. “Don't stress excessively, trust in your progress. Discover and embrace your identity, remain authentic and consistently put in the effort. Success will come with time and dedication," she shared.

Sloan added: “Recall the initial spark that ignited your love for your sport. Often, we overwhelm ourselves and lose sight of our initial passion. Reconnect with that passion; it's the foundation of your journey.” 

Raimondo Partito
Graduate Assistant, Marketing and Communications