Almost five months of grueling practice paid huge dividends for the Payson Special Olympic Team at the Arizona State Fall Games.
In the competition held Oct. 5-6 at the Aquatic Center in Surprise, the 16-member member Rim Country swim squad garnered 35 medals and several ribbons.
"The team began practicing twice a week in June," local SO coach Ruby Lane said. "We practiced at Taylor Pool until it closed at the end of August.
"Then we practiced at the Tonto Apache Reservation pool until the state competition."
While the actual competition, which included relays, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and freestyle events, was the highlight of the weekend, the opening ceremonies contained a special treat for longtime local SO Olympian David Frohme and his teammates.
During the introduction, which included a parade of athletes, fireworks and a dance, an Arizona SO promotional video was shown that featured a speech by Frohme and appearances by the Payson squad.
The DVD first aired Sept. 15 at the Bonzer Concert for Charity at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.
Other attractions at the fall games were appearances by the Phoenix Mercury Hip-Hop squad and the naming of Tucson's Mukitha as SO's Most Inspirational Athlete.
Former Town of Payson Recreation Director Don Fishel, who now lives in Prescott, was a member of the SO Arizona Game Management Team.
Next up for the local Olympians is bowling and the winter sports of speed skating, snowshoeing and skiing.
For more information on Payson SO, call Lane at (928) 474-2233.