The Lawrence county special needs athletes were highly successful at the state special olympics at Troy University.
30 athletes went down and brought back 41 medals, including 22 gold, 19 silver and 10 bronze.
“All of our kids did extremely well,” said Donna Flanagan who heads up special education in Lawrence County. “We had a very successful trip. We were so excited for them.”
One of their biggest sucesses came in the sport of Bocce.
Bocce is a sport originating from Europe that sees teams rolling or “bowling” balls to try and get them as close to a main ball as possible. Teams that get their balls the closest get points.
“It’s kind of like horseshoes, but with a ball,” Flanagan laughed.
The game provides a different challenge for the athletes than they are used, providing a huge test of their abilities.
“It’s very strategic, because you have to decide if you’re going to try and get your ball close or hit the other team’s ball away,” said Flanagan. “And you have all the parents cheering or saying ‘don’t do that’. It’s just like a regular sporting event.”
This was the county’s second year to have a bocce team. Their first go around didn’t yield great results, but they made a remarkable turnaround this year.
“This was our second year to compete and we took two teams,” she said. “Last year we were dead last, but this year we took the gold and the silver. We were super pumped about that.”
The team also made vast improvements in the 4x100 event, grabbing an award that has long eluded them.
“We had never won the gold, it was always the bronze or silver. But this year we won and we won by quite a bit.”
Lawrence County has had a strong special oympics team for quite some time. However, they only seem to keep getting better, as evident by the vast number of medals that they brought home this year.
“We don’t go down there to lose. We are competitive and everyone from the athletes to the parents are all in,” Flanagan said. “It’s exciting to see the kids want it and to try so hard. I’ve had some of these kids for six years now and it’s fun to see how far they have come.”
Lawrence County has been known to have one of the best special olympics events and programs in North Alabama. Seeing their athletes compete and be successful at the highest level only strengthens their program.
“Special Olympics is like everything else. All the focus is on the kids,” she said. “We’re gonna always do what’s best for the kid and I believe in a spirit of excellence. We’re going to do it the very best we can do, and we’re always focusing on what we can do to make it better.”
The athletes probably won’t take too long a break before they will want to get started on working towards next year.
Below is a list of each athlete that competed at Troy in the state olympics.
Destiny Garth, Gabby Kin, Zachary Quillen, Hajon Bracken, Hayden Painter , Isaiah Kirby, Jason Douglas, Jordan Cooper, Savannah Newman, Madyson Bishop, Brooke Kitchens, Zaria Abernathy, Aedan Davidson, Jamia McGhee, Jo’Naya Carter, Lydia Rutherford, Shiloh Barton, Evan Kitchens, Isaiah Terry, Mason Odom, Coy Face, Timmy Chaney, Tyshaun Davis, Jordan Arredondo, Payne Gable, Cade Jones, Anijah King, Bobbile Griffith, Dayton Jones, Jo’Arya Rayford.