From Season to States

Samantha Macuare, Staffer

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It’s a sunny Florida day, and there are fans ringing a lush green field to cheer on groups of athletes who compete in contests of strength and agility. There’s something unique about these contests and these athletes: they are participants in the long-running program Special Olympics. 

Special Olympics comprises many sports, from cheerleading to sailing to flag football. The sports that are played are inclusive and involve both the athlete with a disability and a partner, someone who is there for support. 

“Unified Sports promotes inclusion and it also has improved our athletic skills,” Special Olympics advisor Mary Beth Radigan said. “The unified Special Olympics also endorsed the healthy athlete concept as well as building long lasting friendships.”  

Senior Aarushi Pratap participates in stand-up paddleboard, swimming, cheerleading, basketball, track, and bocce ball. 

 “I like Special Olympics because the partners are friendly,” Pratap said. “I went to a Special Olympics sports banquet and I danced with my friends and had a lot of fun.”  

One power lifter Dara Mizell won a gold medal for bench press and deadlift. Dara started her powerlifting journey early this year. 

“I started doing power lifting because I wanted abs,” Dara Mizell said. “I think I did well because of my mom, I lost my mom from cancer this year and I think I wanted to do best for her.” 

Flag football made it to states, where the team proceeded to win bronze medals. Junior Lauren Webster attended, making this her third year going to states with flag.  

“My buddy is Anna Shoop and helping her play flag football brought me so much joy every time,” junior Lauren Webster said. “It didn’t matter if we messed up, we just went out there and had fun together. Special Olympics has given me a new perspective on every sport and how we play. Just wanting to win, often the fun gets forgotten. In Special Olympics we make sure that the feeling of joy and having fun is never forgotten.”  

The partners also compete with their buddies in addition to cheering them on. 

“One of my favorite memories was when Danielone of our athletes with down syndrome, dove for the endzone and got it,” junior John Decaro said. “Afterwards he looked like the happiest dude alive, I just thought it was super cool that he got to do something he doesn’t normally get to do.”   

Runner and sophomore Martin Ramirez beat his previous time and ran 11 minutes and 45 seconds  

“I run with my buddy Trey Carlson, so he made me run fast for every race,” Ramirez said. “I usually do 3000 meters and I couldn’t be able to do it without Trey’s help, so I want to thank him for all the support he has [given me].”