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Winners Abound At St. Croix Special Olympics

March 7, 2009 — Athletes with intellectual disabilities had their moment of glory on the winners' stand Saturday at the 32nd-annual St. Croix Special Olympics, receiving ribbons and medals from local officials.
As they had their names called, they stepped up on to the three-tiered stand beaming with pride. Medals went to first through third place, but everyone was a winner and got a ribbon for taking part.
The motto of Special Olympics is "Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt."
More than 80 athletes, age six and up, took part in the games at Renaissance Park. Janice Lee, the organization's chapter director, said she had 130 people registered, but there was a bus problem and all the participants didn't make it.
Volunteers helped with registration, grilling food, awards, and even raking the sand for the standing long jump. Lee, a physical education teacher for 14 years at Central High School, has been volunteering since 1977 when the local games began.
"We are here for the athletes and we try to do whatever will enhance their day," Lee said. "We have a good bunch of volunteers."
Patrick Simmons began the games carrying a torch part way around the track handing it off to Timothy James, who in turn handed it to Jeffrey Gerrard, then Thomas Vigilant took his turn and passed the torch to Christopher Riley.
"I felt happy to carry the torch," said Christopher Riley. "And I won third place in the 100-meter run."
Friends, family, volunteers and people who came just to cheer the athletes on could be heard yelling "you can do it" or "good job."
"I had a lot of fun," said Denzol Benjamin, as he proudly showed a reporter the bronze medal he got for third place in a foot race.
The athletes were allowed to compete in three events. There were running events at 400, 200 and 100 meters and a 25-meter wheelchair race. Field events were held in basketball skills, softball and tennis ball throw, standing long jump and tennis.
"I threw the ball really far three times and got a gold medal," said Jordan LaCoss as he bubbled with excitement. Sue Cissel, one of LaCoss' teachers at Kingshill School, said he gets really excited when it is time for the Special Olympics.
"Tennis is a fun game," said Terry Huggins as he showed off some fancy footwork. "I want to keep playing tennis."
Marla Matthew cheered and clapped for her granddaughter Chamarla Lewis as she took her turn at the net.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for students with special needs to come out and excel in the area of sports," Matthew said. "This shows they have talents in and out of class."
On March 28 the St. Thomas area games will take place at the Charlotte Amalie High School track and gym.
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