Northern Gila County Special Olympics’ already glowing reputation was enhanced even further when 16 athletes showed up March 28 at Mesa Red Mountain High School to compete in the Arizona State Individual Skills Basketball competition.
The Payson contingent showed well winning several medals competing against a 175-person qualifying field.
Their success came as no surprise to longtime local SO coordinator Becky Derwort.
“The athletes have trained at the Tonto Apache Recreation gymnasium the past several months,” she said. “And their coach, Deb Schloesser, has received her basketball certification through training sanctioned by Special Olympics International.”
In the competition, the entrants’ skills were tested in several events including Target Pass, Spot Shot and 10-Meter Dribble.
She explained the Spot Shot as, “athletes take two shots from each of the spots around the basketball hoop to get points for a total of six baskets.”
In the 10-Meter Dribble, athletes are timed with the fastest receiving the most points.
For the Target Pass, Derwort said, “athletes stand in a square and pass the ball on a square on the wall, points are given for accuracy.”
At the conclusion of the three events, points are totaled and medals and ribbons awarded.
For the elementary-aged students, the event was their first taste of state competition.
The state rookies included Kobi Smith, Stanton Parker, Michael Allison and Jonathon Varner.
Becky Radimaker represented Rim Country Middle School and Payson High sent Jacquelin Karrys, Jon Agent, Shane Varsho, Josh Nielsen and Tiffany Slayman to the competition.
Adult athletes competing were Roseanne Hendricks, Todd Orr, Tomacina Quain, Holly Jaherr and Misty Smith.
“We are proud of all our athletes and their accomplishments,” Derwort said.
The local program’s success in Mesa comes on the heels of figure skater Christine Sexton winning a gold medal at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games and the foursome of Heather Werlinger, Annie Spencer, Ken Bonn and Gary Boon qualifying for the Special Olympics United National Bowling Tournament in Las Vegas.
Last summer, Payson sent the unified team of John Sexton, David Frohme, George Karrys, R.D. Nielsen, Chad Torgenson and Bonn to the inaugural Swim Bike and Run Special Olympics Triathlon in Tucson.