Special Olympians Prepare For State Competition

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A group of Payson athletes has the chance of a lifetime to compete in one of the biggest athletic competitions in the world.

The group, which includes a track and field crew, basketball squad and gymnastics team, are currently in training for the Special Olympics.

The state competition for basketball is next weekend, March 30 and 31, in Phoenix. The state level of competition is followed by regional competition, then by nationals and, for the very best, the world games.

The 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Shanghai, China Oct. 2 through Oct. 11.

Just as the Special Olympics oath states, "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," these Rim Country athletes have displayed their athletic prowess in many different sporting events.

Members of three other teams -- snowshoeing, figure skating and speed skating -- exhibited their skills in the Arizona Winter Games in Flagstaff on Feb. 23, 24 and 25.

Members of the snowshoeing team include -- Gary Bohn, Melody Ditzhazy, David Frohme, Larry Graham, Ruby Lane (coach), Carol Nethken (coach), Todd Orr, Jenna Palandri, Tiffany Slayman and Stefani Weissert.

Figure skaters include Jacquelin Karrys, Tomacina Quain, Becky Radimaker and Chrissy Sexton.

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Figure skaters from Payson competed in the Special Olympics Arizona Winter Games at the Jay Lively Center in Flagstaff.

"They all medaled and ribboned," said Becky Derwort, Payson area director for the Special Olympics. "They did very well."

Though these athletes face challenges, their determination and heart far outweigh their limitations.

Derwort said that group of special athletes in Payson embodies what the Special Olympics is about.

"We have a very strong program in Payson," she said.

The Payson branch of the Special Olympics was formed in 1979 and is always looking to add to the sports it offers its athletes. The snowshoeing team was added last year and has grown remarkably since then, Derwort said.

Volunteers are always needed for many different areas of the Special Olympics, she said. Volunteer positions include coach, fund-raiser or official.

Athletes can also still sign up for summer game competitions as well.

New athletes are required to complete an eight-week training period before they can compete in state competitions.

For more information about the Arizona or Payson branches of the Special Olympics, visit www.soaz.org or contact Derwort at (928) 474-9142.

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