HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WZZM & Grand Rapids Griffins) -- They both have had to travel very different paths to get there, but a pair of local athletes have been named to the U.S. Developmental Team, placing them one step away from the 2018 Paralympics.
It's in the sport of sled hockey.
Sixty players nationwide were invited to try out, and only 17 were selected.
Two are from West Michigan.
Forwards Robert Thrailkill Jr. from Pentwater and Aaron Wemple from Grand Rapids have been named to the 2014-15 U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey Team.
Thrailkill, 23, begins his second season on the U.S. developmental squad, while Wemple, 17, earned his spot with an impressive debut at the USA Hockey Sled Player Development Camp, scoring four goals and an assist in four games. Three Sled Wings defensemen were also chosen to participate in the camp, including Caleb Janssen, Tim White ad four-time U.S. developmental team member Tyler Anderson.
Seventeen players were ultimately chosen for the 2014-15 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, while Thrailkill and Wemple were among another 18 tabbed for the developmental squad.
Now a retired lance corporal and combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Thrailkill only began playing for the Sled Wings adult team in December 2012.
He lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan on October 26, 2010. He spent the following 25 months recovering at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
Wemple logged five seasons with the Sled Wings' junior team, serving as captain during the last two. The 17-year-old will move up to the adult team this fall.
Both Thrailkill and Wemple will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, in October to participate in the national developmental camp. Both hope to improve their skills and make the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in time for the 2018 Paralympic games in South Korea.