At first glance, this weekend's National Amputee Summer Games at Towson State seem like any other competitive meet.
There will be an assortment of athletes sprinting, leaping and diving to qualify for the 1996 Paralympic Games, set world records and take home medals.
But what sets these games apart are the athletes who are just trying to summon enough courage to compete again. Athletes such as Joseph Edmiston, 37, of Clifton, N.J., who 1 1/2 years ago was immobile in a hospital bed after the lower part of his left leg was removed. This weekend, he will be competing in his first running events since his operation.
"For me, this is just the next step in my physical rehabilitation," said Edmiston, who is entered in the 100- and 200-meter --es. "It's unfortunate that I couldn't train as hard as I wanted because of my skin tolerance. I just want to go back home with a good report."
Edmiston was a running fanatic before the operation. He ran in numerous road races, and said there is a definite difference between those races and the amputee events.
"The good athletes here are a lot more accessible than the able-bodied races," he said. "Here they share different techniques and approaches to help you."
One of those helpful veterans include Carolyn Petersen, 31, of Eugene, Ore. Peterson, a long-distance specialist, is another symbol of the general attitude of the athletes here.
Peterson, who is without a right hand, qualified for the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games and the world championships in Berlin, which begin in two weeks. However, the women's long-distance running events were canceled in both events due to lack of competitors.
"Most people don't come here to get medals or to prove something," said Petersen, who funded her entire trip herself. "If that was the focus, I don't think you would see everybody every year."
Petersen has personal-best times of 2 minutes, 57 seconds in the 800, 6:00.27 in the 1,500 and 12:16.13 in the 3,000. She runs twice a day, and considers a four-mile run a short workout. That training schedule is formulated for one goal -- to conquer those personal records.
"I want to go out there and run my personal best this weekend," Petersen said. "It doesn't matter if it is at Barcelona or Berlin, running a personal best is running a personal best. It doesn't matter where you're at."
This is the third annual National Amputee Summer Games. Officials expect 50 athletes to compete.
Competition began yesterday and continues today from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tomorrow, there will be events from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., concluding with the medal ceremony at Minnegan Stadium at 2:30 p.m.
All track and field events will be held at Minnegan Stadium and the adjoining fields. Volleyball and power lifting events are at the Towson Center.