Saturday, June 6, 2015

Special Olympics State Games

This was Xander's first year participating in Special Olympics. We started with a sport we thought would be pretty low-key and something in which he would excel. Xander has energy. Lots and lots of energy. He loves to run. Getting him to slow down or keep pace with us during neighborhood walks and on outings is always a challenge. Track & Field seemed like a logical choice. It helped that one of the amazing special education teachers at Xander's school was the track coach.

All season long he participated in hour-long practices on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes he enjoyed them, sometimes he didn't. But he always ran hard and always ran fast. He also worked on his softball throw.

The Special Olympics State Games were held at a nearby college campus. It was a three-day event for some athletes, though we only attempted two. The twins and I drove down on Friday evening for the opening dinner and ceremonies. The boys struggled with the crowd, the noise, the long lines and the waiting. We made it through dinner (though we had stopped to eat on the way in, knowing the college cafeteria probably would not offer things both boys would eat, and also not wanting to make a hard situation even harder by having two hungry boys on my hands). We also made our way to the staging area for the opening ceremonies. We did fine waiting for a while, but eventually the strain of everything began to take it's toll. The final breaking point was the cow bells that many of the athletes and family members kept ringing. We ended up calling it a night before Xander had a chance to walk in the opening ceremony of athletes with his team. And that's okay. While I wanted to at least make the attempt, I have a feeling that event was more for me as his parent than for him as an athlete. He likes to play, to win. He's not much on doing things just for show. And while some of the athletes certainly loved being part of the opening ceremonies, Xander was not one of those athletes who found joy in that particular part of the games.

We returned on Saturday morning for his two events ... the 100m dash and the softball throw. Athletes are only allowed two events at his age level, so these were the two we had worked toward all season during practice.

Here's Xander getting ready in the parking lot after we arrived.


And taking a big lead with a big smile for the 100m dash.


And earning his first "shiny medal" of the day ... the gold for the 100m dash in his age group.


Xander lining up for his first softball throw ...


Xander on the podium for his second "shiny medal" of the day ... bronze in the softball throw for his age group.


It was a new and exciting experience. We were not sure what to expect in the tournament setting, as Xander's regional tournament had been canceled due to rain. We had only participated in practice sessions with our own team all season and this was the first real competition for him. He took it all in stride, and had a big smile on his face most of the day. He loved his "shiny medals" (points if you get the Wreck-It Ralph reference).