Grand County Special Olympics athletes head into ’08 season | SkyHiNews.com
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Grand County Special Olympics athletes head into ’08 season

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
The girls pictured are Becca, Elizabeth and Sammi at the 2006 State Meet at Copper Mountain.
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Special Olympic Coach Erica Mays’ daughter, Samantha, wouldn’t let a missed racing gate disqualify her during the 2005 Colorado State Games held at Copper Mountain.

She earned her fourth place medal by hiking back up the course to try it again.

The second time, she cleared it.

“We were all balling,” her mother said.

It’s the sort of determination Mays sees in the entire Grand County Special Olympic Alpine Ski Team this year, made up of four girls including Samantha, 11, who lives with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder of Chromosome 15 that causes developmental delay before age 6 and compulsive obsession with food.

“All four are amazing,” Mays said.

The Fraser mother of three helps with course set-up and administration while colleague Bryan Wood instructs the girls according to Special Olympic guidelines.

The National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park is the backbone of the race program by providing athlete transportation to and from events, paid coaching staff and supervision during the meets.

And parents of local team members are just as committed as the athletes, providing supervision and extra support. They attend trainings at SolVista Ski Basin as well as races and social times that go along with the program.

“Without parents pulling together like they do, I wouldn’t be able to coach the team,” Mays said.

The Grand County Special Olympics team has been in existence about half a decade, and the current team has a competitive drive their coaches say may take them all the way to nationals, if hard work pays off.

Rebecca Huse, 12, of Granby, Elizabeth Willman, 10, of Fraser, and Sarah Zagone, 9, of Kremmling are also on the team.

Collectively, they have won several awards at regional and state alpine ski competitions, with each placing on the podium in the slalom, giant slalom or both.

Although they are young, Mays said, the four girls are doing well competing against more experienced athletes.

Special Olympics training and racing teaches disabled skiers to, not only run the course, but to run the course properly.

Athletes do more than just ski from top to bottom.

Athletes learn race etiquette and the ski responsibility code, as well as technique, and should exhibit “the maturity and discipline to be a competitor.”

They’re also encouraged to have fun.

The Special Olympics ski season is about to begin, with trainings at SolVista scheduled for Jan. 5, Jan. 12, Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 23. The regional meet at Eldora Mountain Resort takes place Feb. 11.

The girls then head to the state meet at Copper Mountain on March 2-3.

The goal of the team is to make it to Nationals, held in Idaho in 2009.

“Our team is so focused. We have a really good chance. Our young girls are skiing at such high levels,” Mays said.

The girls also learn lessons that translate into life skills outside of skiing. They learn how to handle losing, as well as winning, and by working together as a team, they become compassionate and empathetic to others.

“It crosses over on how to conduct yourself on daily business ” something all of us could use some practice on,” Mays said.

Neither lodging or travel expenses are covered for athletes and families during meets.

For this reason, Special Olympic coaches fund raise to help sponsor student athletes.

The team seeks new team coats this year, as well as help with travel and training costs, and to cover NSCD coaching fees. Those interested in becoming a sponsor should contact Erica Mays at (303) 809-6447 or Bryan Wood at (970) 726-1542

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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