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Gearing up for Special Olympics

Gearing up for Special Olympics

Source: KNicolson

Gearing up for Special Olympics: Nearly 8,000 Washington athletes, coaches, volunteers and Family members to participate in weekend’s events

Matt Smith | Northwest Guardian | May 29th, 2008

After a year hiatus, Fort Lewis will field a team for this weekend’s Special Olympics Washington Summer Games. Though not a huge team in terms of numbers, the quality of competitors on this year’s squad is among the best in recent memory.

“I expect them to do good,” said head coach Junior Smith of his seven-man team. “The guys I have are pretty good. They train hard and play hard.”

The seven Fort Lewis athletes represent a very small percentage of what will be 2,700 athletes and coaches who will compete in the games, which run from Friday through Sunday at Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base and the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

Director of Communications for SOWA Jill Ward said there should also be 2,500 volunteers and 3,000 Family members participating in the events.

“The number of athletes is up a little bit by about 400,” she said. “We’ve been making an effort to increase the size of our program and it’s paying off.”

This will be the 36th year the games have been held at Fort Lewis.

“We are very fortunate,” said SOWA Sports and Program Director John Borgognoni of having Fort Lewis and McChord as competition grounds. “We’ve had a great tradition with the fort for 36 years where we can offer our athletes competition. It’s quite a service the Army and Air Force provide for us. We’re hoping it will continue for years to come.”

The seven Fort Lewis athletes all earned passage to the games by dominating their competition at the Southwest Region tournament held May 3 at Kelso High School bringing home a total of 19 medals including 13 golds.

Devin Everly, Joshua Crittenben and Aaron Gold made up the swim team — each won three gold medals. Tyler Thornton, Antonio Warren and Daniel Morales each brought home golds for their team in track and field events. Thornton took golds in the softball throw and individual basketball; Warren nabbed golds in the 25-meter dash and 25-meter saloma; and Morales earned his golds in the tennis ball throw and 100-meter walk.

Angelo Raffaele won silvers in the shot put, 100-meter dash and 200-meter walk, which earned him an invitation to the games despite not winning any gold medals. Smith said the committee will sometimes give an invitation to an athlete who takes silver in every event he or she competes in.

“I’m very proud of them,” Smith said. “They went down in the Southwest division and they ran their hearts out.”

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for Friday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at McChord Hangar 2, and games are set to begin the next morning at 7:30.

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