Coach Pleads For Commitment, Courage

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The pep talk wasn't much different than you'd hear at halftime in the locker room of a high school or college football team. It centered on intensity, loyalty to your teammates, the will to win and perseverance.

The coach also reminded the athletes of the hard work that had gone on in practice and soon they would have the opportunity to prove it wasn't for naught.

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The Northern Gila County Special Olympics team was primed and ready to go Friday morning to travel to Scottsdale for the aquatic competition. Coach Becky Derwort escorted the team to the Valley.

But this speech wasn't delivered to a hungry group of professional or collegiate gridders.

Friday morning, Payson High School Special Education teacher Becky Derwort gave this speech to 15 Payson Special Olympians. The athletes were bound for Scottsdale to compete in the Arizona Fall Championships.

Derwort's words to the athletes mirrored the SO motto of "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Tim Meeske, a longtime and highly successful Olympian, was excited about the opportunity to compete.

"It's going to be a lot of fun for all of us. I can't wait to get there," he said just moments before the school van pulled out of the high school parking lot.

All of the Payson athletes traveling to Scottsdale were entered in the aquatics competition. They had been preparing for the Olympics since last summer when they practiced at Taylor Pool. When Taylor closed in August, Derwort moved the competition to a local hotel swimming pool.

In addition to aquatics, SO competition will be held in golf, softball and bocce ball but no Payson athletes were entered in those events.

Opening ceremonies began at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Scottsdale Stadium. Stu Evans of KMLE served as the master of ceremonies. Glen Campbell and the Good Time Band were among the performers.

More than 950 athletes from around the state participated in the championships.

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