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Special Olympics: Much more than fun and games

It may not have been London’s Olympic Stadium, but to the athletes of the Hood River Special Olympics Team, the State Games still represent the culmination of months’ and years’ worth of hard work and determination.

Forty-five athletes currently constitute the Hood River team, which participate in various sports throughout the year. For the summer season, which came to a close last month with the State Games, athletes practiced for several months and competed in track and field, golf and bocce competitions. A regional contest was a qualifier for the state championship, which was held this year in Newberg.

“For our athletes, Special Olympics is so much more than just having fun; they really take it seriously,” said Jerry Rector, Hood River program coordinator. Highlighting state performances were gold-medal finishes for Josh Belec in the 100-meter run and Lucy Barajas in the softball throw. Belec also finished with a silver in the 400-meter run, while teammates John Owre finished second in his golf division and Katie Tager (with coach Jeri Rector) earned a sliver in the bocce competition.

After the summer season the team moves on to aquatics and bowling in September, and after that it’s skiing in the winter.

“We only practice once a week, but for most of our athletes the program is a huge part of their lives,” Rector said. “For many, if they didn’t have the program they would have a huge hole in their lives. It’s such an important part of their learning and development. They’re not only practicing a sport, they’re learning about society, their disability, their gifts and skills and their limitations. It’s training for their lives.”

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The team is always in need of volunteer coaches for its programs. This fall, it needs both swim and bowling coaches to help with one practice a week, and the more ski coaches the team can get the better.

“They’re truly amazing to coach,” Rector said. “They end up teaching us as much as we teach them.”

Rector said practice times and days can be arranged to some extent to fit coach schedules.

Anyone interested in helping can contact Rector at: soor.hoodriver@gmail.com or 541-436-1113

State Track and Field highlights:

Lucy Barajas:

Softball throw: Gold

100 meters: 6th

Joe Cannon

400 meters: 4th

Josh Belec

100 meters: Gold

400 meters: Silver

State golf highlights:

Ana Linda: 4th

Rusty Hubbard: 5th

John Owre: Silver

Kelly Fork: 5th

State Bocce highlights:

Traditional Doubles

Bill Dockham/Dave Norcross: Bronze

Unified Partners

Nita Applegate (coach) and Ashley Webb:

4th, and Sportsmanship Award

Jayne Medeiros (coach) and Mariah Langer: Bronze

Cale Rice (coach) and Jarvin Whitesell: Bronze, and Sportsmanship Award

Jeri Rector (coach) and Katie Tager: Silver

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