Special Olympians from Marble Falls school district competing at state meet in Arlington

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — For 12 Marble Falls Independent School District athletes, their journey to Arlington for a state competition is more than just a drive up Interstate 35.

“For these kids, it’s the ultimate trip,” said Marble Falls Middle School teacher and coach Gavin Smith. “They are part of a team, and they’re representing Marble Falls. For them, that’s a big deal.”

The MFISD Special Olympics team is competing in the 2013 Texas Summer Games at the University of Texas at Arlington on May 23-26. The Marble Falls squad began track season the day after its basketball season wrapped up in mid-February.

“The kids have been working extremely hard,” Smith said.

The team has been working out just about every Tuesday afternoon at Marble Falls Middle School’s Pony Stadium. The student-athletes practice several events they compete in such as shot put, 50-meter and 100-meter dashes, softball toss and javelin (plastic) throw.

The state meet won’t be the first one the squad has competed in this year. The Marble Falls Special Olympics program hosted a meet at Mustang Stadium in April. On May 4, the team participated in the regional competition at Leander High School. With more than 600 athletes attending the Leander event, the Marble Falls student-athletes returned with lots of medals and ribbons.

The 4×100-meter relay team consisting of Briant Atkinson, Jonathan Estrada, Trevor Phillips and Andrew Phillips earned a silver medal.

Individual awards included:

• Briant Atkinson: silver in running long jump and silver in 200-meter dash;

• Socorro de la Hoya: gold in 50-meter dash and silver in softball throw;

• Jonathan Estrada: gold in mini-javelin throw and fifth in 100-meter dash;

• Taylor Johnson: silver in 50-meter dash and silver in softball throw;

• Vanesa Lopez: bronze in softball throw and gold in 50-meter dash;

• Kim Morrow: silver in softball throw and fourth in 50-meter dash;

• Andrew Phillips: fourth in 100-meter dash and silver in softball throw;

• Trevor Phillips: fourth in mini-javelin throw and silver in 100-meter dash;

• Jacob Phillips: gold in shot put and bronze in 100-meter dash;

• Karena Rios: gold in 50-meter dash and bronze in softball throw;

• Raul Serifin: bronze in 50-meter dash and fourth in softball throw;

• Michael Thixton: gold in mini-javelin throw and silver in 100-meter dash;

• Ethan Vidal: bronze in shot put and gold in 50-meter dash;

• Tanner Worthing: bronze in softball throw and bronze in 50-meter dash.

Smith said one of the greatest joys in working with the Special Olympians is the athletes’ reactions.

“They get this spirit of competition,” he said. “They are certainly aware of the medals, and they want to get one. They want to win. But no matter how they finish, they are so happy and excited.”

Smith’s first experience with the Special Olympics and its athletes came in 1976 when he was working with the Austin parks and recreation department. At a meet, Smith was helping the athletes off the track to their coaches or parents. During one of the races, a young man was struggling to make it to the finish line.

“He was working so hard to make it,” Smith said. “When you looked around, his mother was crying, he was crying, other people were crying. But he made it, and he was so proud just to have finished the race. He never gave up no matter how tough it was.”

The Special Olympics gives these student-athletes a place to meet other people, go to new places and just be kids. It’s not something lost on his team.

“When we go to these meets like the state one, we travel as a team, we go to restaurants as a team, and I tell them that they are representing Marble Falls,” Smith said. “They’re so proud that they’re representing Marble Falls.”

For more on the Special Olympics, go to www.sotx.org.

daniel@thepicayune.com