‘True athletes’ coming to Craig | SteamboatToday.com

‘True athletes’ coming to Craig

Special Olympians competing Saturday at Moffat County High School

Nicole Inglis

Jeremy Gohr holds up medals won in past Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games on April 27 in his room on Pershing Street. Gohr will compete again at the 2010 Special Olympics, which begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Moffat County High School.

When more than 100 Western Slope Special Olympians gather Saturday at the Moffat County High School track, they will assemble with a common goal.

"Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," goes the motto of the Special Olympics.

Some will long jump to victory, while others will use determination and inner strength in running, and willpower in weightlifting.

Coach Cheryl Chase said the summer games in Craig are about effort more than winning.

"I think it helps them know that they can do anything that they want to do," Chase said of her six athletes competing Saturday. "And that it's not about the winning. It's about the getting out there and the trying and the doing their best. We work really hard on that."

The Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games will take place Saturday at Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane.

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The games begin with the annual torch run beginning at 8 a.m. at Safeway, 1295 W. Victory Way.

Julianne Malley, a track and field athlete Chase described as "hard-working," will run the final leg of the torch run.

Opening ceremonies will start at 9 a.m. at the MCHS track, featuring a speech by Steamboat Springs native and 2010 Winter Olympic silver-medalist, Todd Lodwick.

The Craig Kiwanis Club, Moffat County School District and the Moffat County Commission sponsor the Special Olympics, which include track and field, aquatics and power lifting events, beginning shortly after the opening ceremony.

About 150 athletes, 60 coaches and more than 100 volunteers are slated to participate in the event.

Kiwanis Club member Dan Severson is the event organizer for the first time in his four-year involvement with the Special Olympics.

"Personally, it's the true athletes," Severson said of his passion for the Special Olympics. "These kids, they go out there and try their hardest and it's very rewarding to watch."

At the awards ceremony, "you see these kids, you see the smiles on their faces," he added.

Jim Herschberg, a Kiwanis Club member who has taken a special interest in organizing the games the past few years, took a backseat this year but has remained involved, Severson said.

"It takes quite a bit of time," Severson said of putting the event together. "The Herschbergs have spent a lot of hours entering a lot of data, and entering all the contestants in the events. The Herschbergs are more behind the scenes this year but they play a huge part."

On Friday night, the Kiwanis Club will treat the athletes to a Sloppy Jo dinner and a Luau dance at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

Severson said the dance offers an opportunity for athletes to connect with one another outside of competition.

"It's a social gathering," Severson said. "It's great that a lot of these kids have been doing it for years and they know people from Steamboat (Springs), Vail and (Grand) Junction."

Chase said some of the athletes can be really competitive, but the dance is a time to sit down and catch up with old friends.

"They really look forward to the dinner dance," she said. "They love to dance and we get the oldies going and they really get into that."

The Olympians also show their support for one another during competition.

Chase said she's seen athletes stop running a race to help out a fallen competitor.

Everyone cheers everyone on, and fifth place is as good as a gold medal, she said.

"It's about friendship and sportsmanship," she said.

Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or ninglis@craigdailypress.com.

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