If asked to describe the opposite of mediocrity, for me it would be distinction and excellence. Those who pursue these two ideals are set apart from others as a result of this unrelenting drive to be the best we can possibly be … no more and no less.

Davis & Elkins College is very proud to have Dr. Chris Hammer, the coach of our Women’s Triathlon team, as an important part of the College community. When it comes to demanding excellence, Chris is an inspiration to all and a wonderful role model to our students, faculty and staff.

Coach Hammer returned two weeks ago from Tokyo where he competed in the 2021 Paralympics Games representing the United States in the triathlon. Born with one hand due to a congenital condition, Chris never let his impairment impact his ability to compete in athletics while growing up and in College. Joining the Paralympics Track and Field Team, Chris qualified for the 2012 London Paralympic Games running in the 1500 meters and the marathon. In 2013, he tried a new sport:  the triathlon. He represented his country in the 2016 Games in Rio finishing fourth. In 2021, he returned to the world stage to compete in the three events of the triathlon, namely a 750-meter swim, 20 kilometers of biking, and a 5-kilometer run.

So how did Coach Hammer do in Tokyo? As I watched the race, he spent most of it in fourth place. As the athletes made it to the third and final event, the 5K run, Chris was trailing the third-place runner from Canada by a significant margin. The D&E coach was not content to coast his way to the finish line.  The American Paralympian from Elkins began to steadily gain ground on the three runners ahead of him.  Race commentators began to take notice as he closed the distance considerably as the race progressed.  Reaching the medal podium seemed out of reach just a few minutes before, but the grit and determination of Chris Hammer made all take notice. Ultimately, the Canadian crossed the finish line in third place, but right behind him in the picture was D&E’s own Dr. Chris Hammer. Only six seconds separated third and fourth place as Chris completed the grueling triathlon in 59:28.

Chris did not bring a medal back to Elkins, but his display of determination, dignity and an unwavering commitment to distinction and excellence spoke to me more than any medal. As the president of Davis & Elkins College I am proud, his D&E team is proud, the College is proud, and the Elkins community and our nation should be proud as well.

The D&E Women’s Triathlon team has experienced some excellence of their own, finishing second in the nation in 2019 in NCAA Division II competition as Chris was named National Coach of the Year. The power of a coach to influence his team has never been more apparent.

D&E stands for both “Distinction & Excellence” as well as “Davis & Elkins.” This is our goal, and our very own Coach Hammer lived that out for each of us and for the world to see. Thank you, Chris, and congratulations!

The journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College