Payson Athlete Named Special Olympics 'Most Inspirational'

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The surprise announcement that he'd won the most prestigious honor given out by Arizona Special Olympics left a Payson athlete visibly shaken.

"When they called my name, all my teammates started cheering I was kind of scared and my hands were shaking," 20-year-old Tim Meeske said.

Meeske, who's been competing in Special Olympics for the past 12 years, was named "The Most Inspirational Athlete" at the Arizona State games held last week in Scottsdale.

The proclamation declaring him the honoree came at the traditional Olympic victory dance and celebration held at West World the night of Oct. 14, when the games concluded.

According to longtime Northern Gila County SO coordinator and coach Becky Derwort, Meeske's achievement marked the first time the award had been bestowed on a Rim country Special Olympian.

"It's such an honor because it is much more than just competing; it's about character, citizenship and being a really good person which is what Tim is," Derwort said.

Meeske's mother, Judy, said both she and husband Ernie a retired Department of Public Safety officer are elated with their son's accomplishments.

"We are really proud of him and proud to be his parents," she said.

His earning the award, she said, "really didn't surprise me he is such a sensitive, caring young man."

Meeske's mother also lauded Derwort's local Special Olympic team for giving Payson youngsters the opportunity to hone their life skills on and off the playing field.

"Becky's program should receive praise for what Tim did; she does so much for all these (Special Olympians)," she said.

In addition to being tapped for the Most Inspirational citation, Meeske swam his way to three medals in the aquatic competition held at Scottsdale's Chaparral Pool

In both the individual medley and backstroke, he earned gold medals. In the freestyle, he captured the silver medal.

The backstroke is his favorite event, he said, but he plans on practicing the others to become even more successful.

"I'd like to be good in all them," he said.

When not involved in aquatics, the youngster is active in other Special Olympic sports, competing each season in track and field and winter games.

A student at Payson High School, Meeske also works locally at Gollipops candy factory.

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