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Dyess crew chief chases gold

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Parnelle Shands, 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, wears medals won from previous track and field events at Abilene Christian University, Texas, July 14, 2017. Shands participated in several events with the U.S. Air Force Track and Field team such as long jump, 100-meter dash and a 4x100 relay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kylee Thomas)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Parnelle Shands, 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, wears medals won from previous track and field events at Abilene Christian University, Texas, July 14, 2017. Shands participated in several events with the U.S. Air Force Track and Field team such as long jump, 100-meter dash and a 4x100 relay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kylee Thomas)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- He takes a deep breath as he focuses on his stance preparing to push off the starting blocks. With sweat dripping from his forehead and a voice of encouragement in his mind, he’s always determined to be better than he was the day before.    

For Senior Airman Parnelle Shands, 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, competing in track and field is not only a hobby but a way of life. 

“I enjoy the feeling of running fast and knowing that I’m getting better with every day that I train,” he said. “It’s freeing honestly.” 

Shands competes in many different track and field competitions throughout the year on the U.S. Air Force Track and Field team and is the only Dyess Airman on the team. Most recently, he competed in the AirCom Athletics Championship held in Germany against nations such as Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

“This year, I won first place in long jump and reclaimed my title after winning in 2015,” said Shands. “I also placed fourth in the 100-meter dash and second in the 4x100 relay.” 

Shands makes sure to practice at least five days a week to improve his skills and stay in shape. 

“I train every day from doing muscular workouts in the weight room to doing sprints on the track,” he said. 

When up against competition, he is known to be determined and ready while being a respectful athlete and maintaining a positive attitude. 

“Shands is a very humble athlete who is passionate about the sport of track and field," said U.S. Air Force Track and Field team coach Staff Sgt. Emesh Fernando, 321st Contingency Response Squadron aerial port specialist at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. "He is fearless in the face of rivalry and approaches his workouts and competition with the same focused mindset."

“He is a craftsman and student of the sport and he is constantly studying his competition and what it takes to be the best in his events.” 

Shands aspires to keep working hard in hopes to eventually make the U.S. Olympic track and field team. 

“When I made the USAF team in 2015 it made me want to keep getting better and hopefully make it to the Olympics one day,” he said with determination in his voice. “The Olympics have been a goal of mine since I discovered I was actually decent at the sport.” 

Shands expresses how thankful he is for the opportunities he’s had with his team and for the friendships he’s made along the way. 

“I compete because I love the sport,” he said with a wide grin. “I’ve made lifelong friends with the people I’ve competed with and memories that will last a lifetime.”

Shands leaves a lasting impression on anyone he competes with and is an all-around great person to know.

“It has been an honor to work with him as he represents the best within himself, for his squadron, the Air Force, and the United States,” said Fernando. “Parnelle Shands is a name you want to see on your team roster because you know he is going to bring his A game.”