A band of Special Olympic athletes, their coaches and supporters teamed up yesterday, April 30, with local law enforcement officers for the annual Torch Parade.
The festive parade, which began at Chapman Auto Center and traveled south on Beeline, culminated for the athletes at the town limits. The officers continued on with the torch, which will be used to mark the opening of the Arizona State Summer Games that begins today at Mesa Community College and continues through May 2.
Local Special Olympics coordinator Rudy Lane said she had entered 20 Payson SO athletes in the state games, which will include competitions in track and field, gymnastics, power lifting, volleyball, indoor athletics, equestrian and kayaking.
Arizona SO officials predict over 1,200 athletes from around the state will participate in the state competition and celebration.
Among the Payson athletes is Stefanie Wiessert who was chosen Most Inspirational Athlete at the Arizona Winter Games held three months ago in Flagstaff.
“Stephanie was nominated by her coaches as an athlete who is an encouragement to her fellow athletes,” Lane said. “She is there to cheer on her team and to help other athletes whenever she can.”
Wiessert competes in swimming, gymnastics, bowling and snowshoeing.
David Frohme is also among the Payson athletes competing in the state games. As a longtime local long distance runner, he is entered in a 3,000-meter exhibition run.
“David did a 3,000 run at the area meet (April 18 in Phoenix) and earned a gold medal,” Lane said. “He did the (race) in a little over 14 minutes.”
Also for Payson, the program will enter for the first time ever a 4x100 SO Unified Relay team.
“In the Unified Relay, two Special Olympic athletes team up with two Unified Partners, athletes that are not handicapped,” Lane said.
On Payson’s team are Joe Schloesser, Cassie Jones, Jenna Palandi and Jon Agent.
“Also new this year, we will participate in a 4x100 wheelchair exhibition relay,” Lane said. “In it, at least one of the team members has to do the race in a wheelchair.
Representing Payson in the wheelchair will be John Ditzhazy who also competes in the 25-meter assisted walk and the shot put. Others on the relay team are Todd Orr, Robbie Gable and John Sexton.