Special Olympics athletes descend on HVA

Farragut High School students attending Special Olympic games included, from left, peer tutor Alice Dupree, competitor Chris Peters, peer tutor Grace Mead and competitor Asher Brassfield.
Special Olympics of Greater Knoxville united more than 650 special needs athletes at Hardin Valley Academy’s football field April 11 and 12.

Both days were warm and sunny when area elementary, middle and high school students competed in track and field events, which included relays, 100-meter dashes, long-distance softball toss and the long jump.

The younger students filled the field early in the day April 11, then cleared the way for adult competitors in the afternoon.

High schoolers were the stars April 12, including Olympic representatives from both Farragut High School and HVA.

FHS had more than a dozen athletes and peer tutors at the event, and between 10 and 15 Farragut students were on the field most of the day.

Farragut senior and peer tutor Erika Rennich accompanied several students from Thomas Cochran’s special education class.

She has attended Special Olympic games for the last four years, and said they are always exciting, from the opening ceremony, up through the events themselves.

She said the students “had a blast.”

“This Special Olympics was so awesome and different from the others,” Rennich said. “I really got to see the kids give it their all because they did it by themselves!”

Lucy Kole, Hannah Montross, Christopher Peters, Nate Adams and Sabrina Hadjerioua were among the FHS special education students who attended, as did Rennich and several other peer tutors.

Hannah, who won silver in both the 4 x 100-meter relay and the long jump, and received bronze in the 200-meter run, said the day was “fun and (I) liked how (I was) able to get to do these cool events.”

She said she also enjoys being outside and also plays lacrosse.

Sabrina was another of the many winners, earning silver in the 100-meter race and a bronze medal for the long jump.

Nate who had participated in the Special Olympics previously, came away with gold medals in the 200-meter race, the standing go jump, and one of the relays.

Hardin Valley Academy had 13 competitors, all under the direction of special education teacher Tim Lee, who also is co-director of the regional program, and Jennifer Hayes and Casey Queener, both of whom serve as teaching assistants and coaches.

Hayes and Queener also have been recognized as Special Olympics of Greater Knoxville “Coach of the Year” — Queener this year, and Hayes in 2013.

Daniel Gooch, Ethan DeLaRosa and Cody Fink were among the HVA student participants.

Ethan won first place in the long jump and the 4 x 100 relay, while Cody won a bronze medal in the 200 relay, and Daniel also won a bronze medal in the running long jump.

Cody said he takes this oath to heart: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you are still having fun.”

Daniel agreed, and said he “likes everything (about the games),” describing himself as an “athlete — I like running.

“I like hanging out with all my friends and teachers, and I like winning gold, too.”

Brandon Ray and Cade Huff, HVA peer tutors, also helped organize this year’s games.

They also play on several of the unified teams, where both Special Olympians and the other students play side-by-side.

“The Special Olympians are just the stuff,” said Ray. “They are competitive like no other.”

Huff said he enjoyed the aspect of “seeing people from all over, who get to compete and have fun.”