Special Olympians advance to State

Cedar Falls High School has many different sports and activities for students to participate in. Each student is given the opportunity to discover their passion and pursue it. A very important activity that has been overshadowed by many other things is the Special Olympics team held at Cedar Falls.

The special Olympics team is made of primarily Cedar Falls students, with some others joining from nearby schools. The Olympics consists of three different seasons and three different sports. In the fall there is bowling, winter is basketball and in the spring track and field. Many students participate in one season or more. Each season has Districts and then State. If athletes perform well at Districts, they will advance on to State. This past March the Spring Special Olympics were held at the UNI Dome and all students have received first place ribbons and advanced on to State, which will be held at the Iowa State campus in Ames during Memorial Day weekend in May. The whole CFHS team has advanced on to the State level this season.

Two seniors Megan Hermanson and Hunter Aldridge who have been involved in this for years, only have positive things to say about the Olympics. Both athletes have participated in different sports in previous years, but this year they both did track and field.

Hermanson started participating when she was an eighth grader, and Aldridge soon after as a freshman. “In other years I have done all three events, but this year I am only doing track and field,” Aldridge said. He participated in long jump, the javelin throw and the relay (4×1) at the District Special Olympics, and he is going on in all three events at State in May.

Hermanson competed in the standing long jump and mini javelin at Districts and also made it to State in both events. “I was intending to do all three [seasons], but it didn’t work out, but in years past I have done all seasons.” Also, she has done other track and field events, such as the softball throw and relay.

In order to prepare for these Olympics, the athletes practice at the Dome. “We basically practice all of [the events] at once, then we decide what we want to do,” Aldridge said.

Both of these athletes have had a great experience competing in the different sports in the Special Olympics, and they remember how coach Jan Williams, who works at Peet Junior High, encouraged them to compete, and they have never regretted their decision of taking up the offer. Aldridge remembers being optimistic at first. “I was like OK, I’ll give it a try. I’m not really sure what it is, but I’m game, and now I have a total of I don’t even know how many medals.”

Hermanson was also optimistic yet also thrilled with the opportunity to get to take part in something like this. “I guess I thought it would be fun to do, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do sports. There aren’t really sports here that I can do at the high school, so with this I was finally given the chance to do sports. I have gained a lot of medals and ribbons from it.”

Both athletes spoke out on how fun not just the Olympics are, but the other activities they get to partake in while they are there are. “When you go to Ames, you get to do fun things. My favorite part is the dance,” Hermanson said.

Aldridge explained how there are other activities to be done for athletes who arrive early while other events are being finished up. “They have an Olympic-type plane to open the ceremony, which is really cool,” he said.

Another fun aspect for the athletes is that they get to stay in the dorms on campus while they are competing in Ames. “The Olympics are usually held on Iowa State’s campus, so we get to stay in the dorms. We leave on Thursday and most likely won’t come back until Saturday, depending on events. So we get two nights in the dorms,” Aldridge said.

He also said how much these Olympics mean to him and explained that they are all just as capable of anything. “Most people don’t give it enough credit. We are all capable of a lot more than what most people think. Just because people are disabled physically or lack in a certain department, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete.”

Hermanson agreed that they are just as capable, “Sometimes our Olympians throw farther than the UNI football players,” she said.

Also, the Special Olympics are always in need of volunteers. “They always need volunteers, so you could always sign up. The Panthers help out, and so do other college students,” Aldridge said.

“Even the UNI cheerleaders help out,” Hermanson added.

Both athletes have thought of advancing on in the special Olympics after high school. Hermanson might join the Goodwill team.

Aldridge overall has enjoyed these Olympics and has had a lot of fun over the years,

“It’s an experience that is hard to sum up, but it’s pretty great.”

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