Special Olympics practice conditions athletes
April 1, 2014
Practices for the Special Olympics are in full swing at Havre High School and, on average, have around 50 people attending them.
Shaylee Lewis, a special education teacher at Havre High, said athletes are preparing for the April 30 Havre area Special Olympics.
"It's for the surrounding areas," Lewis said. "We call it the Great Northern area, but everyone comes from all over."
Lewis said the towns that attend the Great Northern Area Spring Games include Harlem, Turner, Malta, Rocky Boy and Box Elder, but competitors from any town on the Hi-Line are invited.
Lewis has been training people for the Special Olympics for 10 years - for as long as she has been teaching at Havre High.
Those wanting to compete in the Special Olympics must be at least eight years old and have an intellectual disability, Lewis said. At the Havre practices, Lewis said they have a wide age range, all the way up to people in their late 60s.
Lewis said she thinks the athletes gain a lot from the experience.
"Special Olympics gives our athletes the opportunity to live life through sports," Lewis said. "I think they take away a family and a support group and it's pure enjoyment for them."
She added the practices and competitions gives them something to do and be a part of.
"Just like a high school basketball team, they have the same sense of camaraderie," Lewis said. "The competitions are just the culmination of the practices."
The Havre area athletes will be going to the state-level Special Olympics May 14 to 16, where they will be competing in track, aquatics, golf and bowling. Lewis said they just finished the winter olympics in late February, where they competed in snowshoeing and alpine skiing and they compete in basketball in the fall.
Mitch Grubb said he has been competing in the Special Olympics for 17 years and his strongest game is golf. He said he has placed in the state golf competition for 16 years.
"Ever since I started golfing, I've been winning at all the competitions," Grubb said.
Grubb said he competes in many of the sports - mainly golf, bowling and running.
"I enjoy it," Grubb said. "Gotta stay in shape."
Amy Byrd is the mother of an athlete and said her daughter, Sway, will be competing in her second olympics.
"She'll be doing the 100-yard dash, the 50-yard dash, standing long jump and the softball throw," Byrd said. "She enjoys it. She gets to get out and exercise."
Byrd said her daughter is taking away good things from the practices.
"She is able to participate in what every other kid gets to and she can have fun," Byrd said. "It just lets her be with her peers."
The Great Northern Area Spring Games begin April 30 at 9 a.m. at the Havre Middle School track. Lewis said if anyone is interested in volunteering with the competition or the practices, they can contact her at the high school.
"We are always looking for volunteers," Lewis said. "Once you go to one game, you're hooked."