By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
July 1, 2006
Oregon State Police officers carried a torch across Oregon and into Corvallis last weekend to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Oregon 2006 Summer Games. In all, 1,200 athletes from across the state turned out to compete in the largest Special Olympics Oregon sports competition of the season.
The event, presented this year by Les Schwab Tire Centers, brought a group of dedicated and enthusiastic athletes from Hood River to Corvallis for the weekend, where they stayed in Oregon State University dorms and competed at the Crescent Valley High School campus in the softball throw, the shot put, the 50-meter and 100-meter dash, the 50-meter walk, and the 4x100 meter relay.
“The weekend went really well,” said Hood River’s Program Coordinator Barbara Langer. “The athletes all have such great attitudes and they’re very happy to get out, compete and have fun with sports.”
The Hood River athletes trained once a week for the past three months at Hood River Valley High School to prepare for the competition with the help of Langer and coaches Hector Ortiz, David Ortiz, Gerri Rector and Jayne Mederios. And their training paid off. Highlight performances include J.R. Loreto placing 4th in the shotput and 6th in the 100-meter dash, John Owre taking the gold metal in the 50-meter walk and a bronze in the shot put, Clayton Evans, Bill Dockham, Esther Simmons, Chris Garo and Mariah Langer receiving the bronze in the 4x100 meter relay, Garo taking the gold in the softball throw, Billy Cook placing 4th in the 50-meter dash, Ann Trudell getting bronze in the softball throw, and Langer getting a gold in the 50-meter dash and a bronze in the softball throw.
Although the crew brought home a cache of ribbons and medals, their outlook on the competition is one of effort and trial, not of winning at all costs.
“The athletes say the Special Olympics motto a lot,” Langer said. “It states: ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’.”
Special Olympics Oregon is privately-funded nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports training and competition to more than 5,000 adults and children with intellectual disabilities throughout the state.
The athletes will now prepare for the soccer, bowling and swimming seasons, which start in early September. After that, the winter season includes basketball and skiing.
According to Langer, the local group could always use volunteer support from the community.
“We especially could use some help and new ideas for fund-raising since we have to come up with a lot of money to be able to go to competitions,” Langer said.
To find out more about Special Olympics in the Hood River area, to volunteer, or to offer fund-raising ideas, contact Langer at 386-1527 or Coach Ortiz at 806-2369.