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By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

Milk River Special Olympians to Compete In Billings

 

Bonnie Davidson / The Courier

Glasgow athletes from the Milk River Activity Center are headed to Billings this week to compete in the state Special Olympics. Ten athletes from Glasgow will meet hundreds of others in Billings in the hopes to be the best in a variety of competitions. Those pictured in the back row include Shaundel Alexander and Isaiah Devereaux. In the middle are Jennifer Franzen, Linda Laumeyer and Brian Stots, and in the front are Karla Garsjo, Shaun Garwood and Diane Ersland. Not in the photo is Robbie Carpenter. Coaches are Theresa Stone, Nichole Nelson and Jamie Rennick.

While the weather would have held out for the short torch run for the state Special Olympics, scheduling conflicts prevented the ceremony. This week the top 10 from the Milk River Activity Center will travel to Billings to compete in the Special Olympics.

The team competed in the area competition in Miles City earlier this year and they all came back with medals. Jennifer Franzen took home medals in bowling, walking and throwing. She said she enjoyed districts and was fairly excited to head to the state competition. The four-day competition is the culmination of at least eight weeks of training for the 10 headed to Billings. They'll left Tuesday, May 13 to compete and will come back, hopefully with medals around their necks on Friday, May 16.

The Special Olympic athletes have been training one or two days a week, many do extra training on their own. They work on treadmills and practice for their events. Linda Laumeyer explained she trained for softball, bowling and her 20 meter walk. She said she was pretty confident she was going to win, she's also excited to take the trip and squeeze in a little shopping while they travel to Billings.

Joe Remmick, an employee of Milk River Activity Center and who helps with the trips, training and events of the special olympics, explained that the athletes are placed in categories based on their ability. While they train for the olympics their results are tracked to help judge where they are best suited for competition. At area, which would be similar to divisional, 50 athletes competed. Remmick explained that they all brought home three medals each. Most of them were gold, but a few silver medals were earned as well.

The athletes can compete in three events, sometimes what they compete in will depend on the scheduling of events. Those events range from equestrienne competitions to weight lifting. A more popular event is bowling, as many of those who participate find the event to be fun. Those who throw, throw tennis balls, softballs and the shot put, depending on their skills and abilities.

"The first time you see it, it's awe inspiring," Remmick said.

While the athletes gather to test their skills against competitors the special olympics is also a time to gather and visit with friends they might only see once a year. During the events they have a dance and carnival. The first night they arrive a barbeque will take place. The evenings are filled with lots of social activity to make the trip even more appealing for the athletes to attend.

"This event is highly supported by a large number of volunteers," Remmick said.

He explained that hours were put in to put the event together and sponsors from all over the state helped finance the event. Remmick added that the Governor usually attends every year and many support the athletes and events. Because of the hundreds that come to the event the olympics are held in bigger cities around the state. Many years ago Glasgow was able to hold the event, but because of the increased participation there wouldn't be enough venues to support the Special Olympics.

While the competitors do their best at the state level special olympics, they have the potential to move onto the national level. Remmick said that sometime in the last decade a basketball team went to compete in North Carolina for nationals. He said he wasn't sure how the athletes from Glasgow would do this year, but some of that might depend on the placing of teams.

Glasgow's athletes competed last year at the state level. Only Laumeyer didn't compete. He said participation over the years has been steady but because of the aging population, that could slow down in the future. While some of the athletes no longer compete Remmick said that several look forward to this event all year long.

"They are all so proud of it, and they should be it's a great thing," Remmick said.

 

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