More than 35 of Payson's Special Olympics athletes are now gearing up at Payson High School facilities for area meets and state competition in track and field events, gymnastics and power lifting. An area meet for track and field has been scheduled April 30 in Mesa at Mesa High School. Power lifters also attended an area meet on April 17 at Fitness West in the West Phoenix area.
The state level competition for all three sports occurs at Special Olympics Arizona Summer Games on May 20-23 at Desert Vista High School and other venues.
Payson's four power lifters do general fitness training as well as prepare for their two events, the dead lift and bench press. Coach Judy Watt emphasizes safety as well as conditioning.
Ten athletes are participating in rhythmic or artistic gymnastics training. Coaches Becky Derwort and Linda Flake encourage their athletes to experience the joy of movement in a controlled setting. They advise that gymnastics is a good program for new athletes to begin to experience success, while those with more agility can progress to more difficult levels in the sport. Payson will host an area meet with Show Low on May 5 at 9:30 a.m. at Payson High School.
A large group of 25 athletes are training in track and field events. Track events range from a 10-meter wheelchair event to 400-and 800-meter race walks to a 1500-meter run and the pentathlon.
Field events are standing and running long jumps, tennis ball throw for the multi-handicapped, softball throw, and shot-put.
Two teams, the Longhorns and the Mavericks, are continuing to show improvement as they also prepare for the 4x100 relay. Coach Nancy Bruner stresses good sportsmanship along with proper training and fitness.
Special Olympics training offers opportunities for athletes of a wide range of abilities and ages from 8 years old and up to participate. Athletes in wheelchairs and long-distance runners can share a similar pride and joy of individual accomplishment as they recite the oath, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
The public is invited and encouraged to attend any of the meets or state competition to see first-hand the inspiring efforts and accomplishments of our special athletes.
Coaches and volunteers are always needed. Experience is not required -- just a willingness to help, learn and grow.
For more information or if you wish to become involved as a volunteer, contact Becky Derwort, area director of Payson Special Olympics, at work (472-5722) or home (474-9142).