Bergquist named 2008 Air Force Male Athlete of the Year
By Capt. Sandy Smock, 141 ARW Public Affairs
/ Published April 07, 2009
2 April 2009 -- Tech. Sergeant Michael Bergquist, Washington Air National Guard member, has not only crossed first over 19 finish lines throughout the year but has also set 11 new course records in triathlons, duathlons, and road races ranging from two miles up to the marathon. These accomplishments earned Bergquist the title of Air Force Male Athlete of the Year for 2008.
Each year the Air Force Services Agency selects one male and female for its top award among the Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard combined. With over 700,000 officers, enlisted and civilian Air Force members this is a tremendous honor to be selected. Many of his races are not military sponsored events; however, he can easily be spotted wearing his National Guard or Air Force racing attire at every event he competes in.
Bergquist is a multi-sport endurance athlete who typically competes in swimming, biking, running, or any combination of the three in events lasting from less than ten minutes to nearly three hours. In 2008, his race categories consisted of nine running races, including one marathon and two half marathons. Three events were duathlons, which included a bike ride between two runs. In his primary sport of triathlon, he finished first seven times. "It's important to be active in the community and to demonstrate that military members are fit to fight," said Bergquist.
In 1997, he was told due to an injury that his days of competing were over. He actually had to start from the beginning as he could barely walk for three months. "While starting over with walking, I realized that nothing is certain until I quit, which I could never do to myself," said Bergquist. He hasn't missed a day of training in over 5 years. Each year builds on the previous year when training for an event. He doesn't believe in a single excuse regarding injury, illness, weather or time. "Any exercise program without excuses is better than a brilliant plan that's not followed," said Bergquist.
He uses his love of sport as a recruiting tool for the National Guard and Air Force. "It's a great way to recruit from within the unique demographic of athletes. Our military sports programs encourage the highest levels of fitness and competition, which trickle down throughout all the ranks," said Bergquist.
He has competed in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon Championships for the last five years. All five times he's earned a spot on the National Guard's Elite Marathon Team, which is funded as a recruiting program. This program is directly responsible for generating more than 3,000 quality leads. He has also been selected in each of the last six years to compete as a triathlete on the All Air Force Triathlon Team at the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships. On four occasions he's qualified for the All Military World Championship Team USA. He is the only triathlete from any branch of the military to compete in each of the last three, which includes the first ever triathlon at the Military World Games.
His inspiration of fitness has not only reached other athletes and the general public but this love for the marathon has now extended to his family. The 141st Air Refueling Wing Medical Squadron has enlisted the wife of Michael, Amanda Bergquist, who was selected for the Washington National Guard Marathon Team and has goals of qualifying for the National Guard's Elite Marathon Team where she can join her husband.
Along with his sports competitions and military accomplishments, Bergquist has also been recognized for an act that goes beyond any trophy or recognition. During one of his many events a kayaker found herself trapped in rushing waters and was drowning. Bergquist, without a moment of hesitation, was able to swim through the cold and fast-moving water and rescued the potential victim. As a result of this act he was awarded the Red Cross Military Hometown Hero Award, Pitsenbarger award and the state Guardsman Medal for Heroism. "It was a scary situation, but the cost of inaction was too great. I did what I'd hope anyone else would do if that were me," said Bergquist.
The 36-year old who spends his time working in the 242 Combat Communications Squadron has accomplished an endless list of both personal and professional goals but still has more that he wants to do. He has trained for 15 years and his hope is to qualify for the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). His next steps are to gain sponsors to support him in even higher level competitions.
Bergquist has had many proud moments in the spotlight of fame and when reflecting on one of his favorites he said, "My first military world championship which was in Holland in 2003 they announced my name, rank and country. I stepped forward, waved, dove into the water and waited for the triathlon to begin. For a moment, the world was my stage. Only two groups of people get to wear the US uniform: athletes and military. To be both at the same time made all those years of training worthwhile," said Bergquist.