Brad Snyder attended Manatee High School for his freshman and sophomore years of school before spending 11th and 12th grade up the road at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg.

“I love this area. It’s always great coming back,” said the 2002 graduate. “This is an area is near and dear to me.”

That makes this weekend extra special. Snyder will try to earn critical international competition points in the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival held at Nathan Benderson Park. Athletes need competition points to inch closer to qualifying for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

“Brad’s been to the Paralympics twice for swimming. He’s a phenomenal athlete,” said his race partner, Colin Riley. “It’s been great getting to know him and kind of training together.”

Athletics was always a big part of Snyder’s life. He never expected it to become a lifeline.

“Once you feel that energy at the Paralympics, it’s really kind of an addictive thing I want to continue to do as much as possible.”

Snyder has won seven Paralympic medals. He was blinded during his Navy service.

“At the tail end of my Afghanistan deployment, I stepped on an IED that detonated a short distance in front of me,” he said. “The good news of that, I was able to walk away from that blast. The bad news is my face was pretty badly damaged and I lost my eyesight as a result.

“Service is core to who I am.”

SNYDER_Photo by Loren Worthington_1539375318664.jpg.jpg
Brad Snyder aims to compete at the Paralympics in 2020 in Tokyo.
Loren Worthington

Snyder credits his family for helping craft that mindset.

“Just serving the country, and that’s ultimately how he lost his vision, he kind of, really, not paid the ultimate but I really respect his service,” said Riley. “It’s an honor to kind of guide him knowing he was there to protect us and serving the country.”

Snyder and Riley will compete side-by-side on Sunday. The Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival features able-bodied and disabled athletes alike.

Here is this weekend’s schedule of events, held at Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle.:

ITU Triathlon World Cup | Saturday, Oct. 13 | 1:30 p.m. (women) and 3:30 p.m. (men)

The ITU Triathlon World Cup will draw top elite triathletes from around the globe as they compete head-to-head for a share of a $60,000 prize purse, with equal payouts for men and women. The race will double as the USA Triathlon Elite National Championships, with the top U.S. male and female finishers earning the title of national champion.

The elite men’s and women’s course features a multi-loop 750-meter swim, 18.3-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run through Nathan Benderson Park. Top U.S. athletes on the men’s start list include defending national champion Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.); five-time ITU World Cup medalist Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.); and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), who was the top U.S. man at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final held in mid-September in Gold Coast, Australia.

The women’s start list is headlined by Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) and Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), who finished the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Series ranked fourth and eighth in the world, respectively. Six-time ITU World Cup gold medalist Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.) and 2017 ITU Under-23 world champion Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.) will also compete.

ITU Paratriathlon World Cup | Sunday, Oct. 14 | 8 a.m.

The ITU Paratriathlon World Cup covers the same 750m swim, 18.3k bike and 5k run course as the elite men and women. Highlighting the U.S. squad are Kendall Gretsch (PTWC, Downers Grove, Ill.), who is currently undefeated in five seasons of elite paratriathlon competition; Elizabeth Baker (PTVI, Signal Mountain, Tenn.), who placed fourth at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games; and Joel Rosinbum (PTS4, Austin, Texas), a two-time ITU Paratriathlon World Cup medalist.

USA Triathlon Age Group Draft-Legal National Championships | Saturday, Oct. 14 | 7:30 a.m.

This inaugural race gives U.S. amateur athletes the chance to compete for national titles in their age groups in the draft-legal style of racing. Draft-legal racing, in which athletes ride in packs and work together on the bike course, is contested in elite ITU competition and is increasing in popularity at the age-group level. While this race has been held as a World Championship qualifier in previous years, it is considered a National Championship for the first time in 2018.

The race will feature a 750m swim, 18k bike and 5k run. Top finishers in each age group will qualify to represent Team USA at the 2019 ITU Age Group Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, which are also draft-legal.

CAMTRI Triathlon Mixed Relay American Championships | Sunday, Oct. 14 | 1 p.m.

Triathlon mixed relays will debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the CAMTRI Mixed Relay American Championships are an opportunity to showcase this fast-paced race format on U.S. soil. The elite international race will feature 19 teams from eight countries, each comprised of two men and two women. In this spectator-friendly discipline, each athlete completes a 300m swim, 6.4k bike and 1.5k run before passing off to the next teammate, with the fastest combined time winning the race.

Seven U.S. squads are set to compete, featuring many of the same athletes racing in Saturday’s ITU World Cup. Team USA earned a gold medal at the 2016 ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships, collected the world silver medal in 2017 and took bronze in 2018.

For complete event information for the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival, visit usatriathlon.org.sbtrifest2018. Complete start lists and course maps for all elite races are available at triathlon.org.

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.

Have a news tip? Email tips@wtsp.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.