Friday, June 29, 2012

Special Olympics State Games 2012

Fantastic follow up article in the Galt Herald this week.  Big THANK YOU to the reporter who took the time to support our kids and cover this fantastic event.  

Chiefs celebrate memorable Special Olympics weekend

Photo by Kerensa Uyeta-Buckley - Elias Reed of the Galt Chiefs finishes the 50 meter race on June 24 at the Special Olympics at U.C. Davis’ Toomey Field.

By Kerensa Uyeta-Buckley - Sports Editor
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:05 PM CDT
After Elias Reed crossed the finish line of the men’s 50 meter race at Toomey Field, a look of pure happiness emerged across his face.

A few steps later, he put his hands up and enjoyed the moment of his final race at the Special Olympics’ Summer Games, of which over 900 athletes and volunteers were scheduled to participate over the June 23-24 weekend.

Just moments earlier, his teammate, David Verissimo, Jr. competed in his 50 meter race and soaked in his final event of the season in one of the largest events of the year for Special Olympics Northern California.

Joining other athletes from all over Northern California, the two athletes represented the Galt Chiefs at U.C. Davis, where the meet was held and brought home three medals each.

Reed, age 11, won a gold medal in the 50 meter run and the softball throw and a silver medal in the 100 meter run. Verissimo, Jr., age 12, won gold medals in the 50 meter and 100 meter races as well as a silver in the softball throw.

The Summer Games includes competitors from age 8 and up and is a three day event, beginning with the opening ceremonies, which were held June 22.

In addition to track and field, athletes competed in bocce, aquatics, and tennis, according to the SONC Web site.

Also celebrating the Special Olympics Summer Games was the torch run, which was held in Northern California by law enforcement members for 14 days, according to SONC, before the Flame of Hope was used to light the caldron at the opening ceremonies.

The Chiefs enjoyed privelages such as spending the weekend at the athletes’ village on the U.C. Davis campus with their parents, who were also their coaches. They also enjoyed meals and were able to meet new friends in between their opening ceremonies and their three events, said David Verissimo, Sr., who coached his son.

Being able to enjoy an opportunity such as this one, which was entirely free to athletes, came after months of preparation.

Both Verissimo, Jr. and Reed practiced twice a week for about two hours and had to earn a gold medal in the regional qualifier in order to earn a spot in the Summer Games.

Even then, the limited number of spots available to athletes meant that not every one could participate.

Their teammates, Kaily Riley, Spencer Woods and Raul Ramirez, Jr. also qualified, but the Chiefs had just two spots available to them and decided to send Verissimo and Reed should fill them.

When asked what their favorite sport was of the weekend, both Chiefs knew exactly what they liked to do.

“Run. It makes me go faster,” Verissimo, Jr. said. Overall, he said his favorite sport is basketball.

“Softball throw,” Reed quickly said about his favorite sport. “Because I threw it very hard.”

Playing sports has been an important part of both boys’ lives.

Both boys, who are River Oaks students, started competing in Special Olympics since they were eight, and at one point Reed even played on two soccer teams, said his mother.

“We put him in little league t-ball, soccer, gymnastics, everything from a very early age and then we started him on Special Olympics probably when he was eight,” Michelle Reed said.

Elias Reed also played County Line soccer as well as Special Olympics soccer during the same season.

The most important experience of the meet was possibly the people both families met along the way, besides the competition itself.

“We met so many friends from Sac and Fresno, Tulare, the Bay Area; the bus drivers were wonderful,” Verissimo, Sr. said.

“They sure had their hearts in it and like great athletes, they were true sports,” said their coach, Becky Smith. “The biggest thing is they were here. They know they matter.”

Cooling off on the grass after posing for pictures on the medal podium, both boys were ushered by their parents back to the podium to take more pictures.

There, they goofed around before finally striking a pose that described their efforts perfectly.

Both Verissimo, Jr. and Reed held “number one” signs next to each other’s heads using their fingers.

In a few short months, both will be back competing in soccer, looking for more chances to be number one.

Be gentle.

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