Special Olympics is back for more

2019 season begins after state championship win


Anushka Hebbar

The floor hockey team gathers around the puck as a scrimmage commences

The Special Olympics team is working harder than ever to uphold their title of State Champions. From friendly Unified Soccer scrimmages to intense bocce-ball precision practice, the grind never ends for this squad.

The team, compiled of both LHS and VHHS students, is currently in their fall season practicing and competing in events. These events include unified basketball, bocce ball, and floor hockey. Unified teams include students with varying ability levels.

The team warms up by jogging and sprinting in the gym, and then stretching. Right after this, they go straight into playing games against each other, led by the unified players.

Special Olympics provides a safe environment for all students to thrive in as players, unified players or volunteers.

Player Anna Scholler likes to be a part of the team because she enjoys the social atmosphere and playing the sport she loves: basketball. It was meaningful to her that she got to go to the state competition.

Player Hope Michelotti likes Special Olympics—so much so that she wants to become a Special Olympics coach one day.

“I was doing a good job in bowling, and I want to do it again and I want to make it to state this year, too,” Michelotti said.

Andy Compton, a coach for Special Olympics, said that coaching the team is an unimaginable feeling, as there are so many unparalleled moments that happened.

One moment that specifically stuck out to him was how eager the snowshoeing team was to help the other participants. This was the first year of the team taking part in that sport, so he was surprised to see friends made across teams.

He expressed his ambitions for the team and mentioned that there’s a lot of pressure on the unified basketball team.

With ample amounts of practice, Compton believes the team can defend their title as state champions this year.

There are 3 to 4 games against other schools before the state competition.

These games allow players to apply the skills they learned in a formal setting and practice what it would feel like to compete in the state competition, Compton said.

“Games are normally away at other schools on other soccer fields or at VHHS in the stadium,” Celia Gomez (11) said.

The coaches, Sean Kelly, Corey Atwell, Jerry Miceli, and Madi Demarco, were pleased about their state win. So too was player Albina Giza (10), who shared her emotions about the state win and experience. She enjoyed the atmosphere of the state championship.

“Oh my god. I actually won state; I’ve never won state and you feel so proud you accomplished something,” Giza said.

To prepare for state, the team works on the rules of each sport, as well as skills such as passing drills for basketball and aiming and precision for bocce-ball and floor hockey. They then utilize the skills by playing mini-games amongst each other.

Mini-games are led by unified players. They coach players in sports of their expertise or play in the games as support; for example, Gomez is a soccer player, and she helps to coach players on their soccer skills.

“I am proud to support and participate in Special Olympics, as I like to see the players’ happiness when I join in activities with them,” Gomez said.