Athletic competitions aren’t easy for anyone. Nerves get rattled as competitors meet, and the threat of loss dismantles confidence. On Sunday, seven of nine eligible athletes from Hopewell Valley YMCA’s Special Olympics bowling program faced off against 138 other players from Mercer County at the Area 11 Meet, held at Curtis Lanes in Ewing. Amazingly, all seven athletes placed 1st in their divisions.
After working night-shifts, New Jersey State police officer Sergeant Storm Coleton and Officer Christine Heppel from Mattawan Police Department presented gold medals to Navin Satish (Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD), 7th grade), Steven Hu (HVRSD, 10th grade), Delaney O’Connell (HVRSD, 9th grade), Nicholas Shenouda (Lawrence Township Public Schools, 5th grade), Tanner Millemann (Bordentown Regional School District, 6th grade), Leo Jacobs (HVRSD, 8th grade), and Victoria Hamm (HVRSD, 4th grade).
What makes Sunday’s participants most remarkable is that having an intellectual disability, Special Olympics’ singular criteria, is often the least of their challenges. Many children and adults who participated suffer from life-threatening illnesses, debilitating anxiety, mood disorders, widespread developmental delays, physical impairments, etc. Showing up to practices consistently is difficult. Attending a competition where the noise level is deafening and space is limited, due to the number of players, spectators, coaches, and numerous volunteers, can be an insurmountable hurdle. Those who persevered through the mandated 15 practices and competed in the overwhelming environment were rewarded by high scores and caring volunteers that cheered the event’s highs and soothed the lows.
Those awarded 1st and 2nd place on Sunday compete next against players from Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Mercer, and Burlington Counties at the March 10th South Bowling Sectionals to be held at Laurel Lanes in Maple Shade. Those players who place 1st or 2nd at Sectionals will compete at the State Spring Games on April 7-8 at Bowlero in North Brunswick.