A caravan of athletes and volunteers will depart from the Kenai Peninsula Friday with months of practice to draw on during weekend competitions.
A total of 19 athletes will travel to Anchorage Friday to participate in the 2000 Special Olympics Alaska State Summer Games.
Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with disabilities. According to a press release, sports give Special Olympians continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families and other Special Olympics athletes.
The athletes will participate in basketball and aquatics. Katherine Wilusz, Central Peninsula Special Olympics area director, said both teams have been practicing since late last year.
The Central Peninsula Jazz basketball team has nine cagers, with ages ranging from 13 to 30.
Basketball coach John Stoner said the team hopes to place in the top three, but is eager for the top.
"Our goal is to get first place," Stoner said.
The team has practiced two hours every Friday at Sears Elementary or Kenai Recreation Center since early November.
This is the first year Stoner has been a certified coach, but he has helped coach other Special Olympics sports in the past.
Maggie Reilly, swim coach for the Central Peninsula Swim Team, said she is expecting her team to place near the top in weekend competition.
"Point-wise, I think we'll do really well," she said.
She has been the swim coach for 10 years, off and on, she said.
The group of 10, ages ranging from 8 to 25, will compete Saturday and Sunday, with some performing standing dive starts and flip turns, aside from the normal routine.
Among the swimmers, Myrna Kuchenoff will perform the 100-yard individual medley, a demonstration of all four swimming strokes. Kuchenoff is one of the few Special Olympics breaststrokers in Alaska, Reilly said.
The swimmers practiced an hour and a half every Monday at the Skyview High school Pool since late October. Reilly said the team has put in a lot of hard work and effort.
"I am just really proud of how far they've come," she said.
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