The 2000 Special Olympics Alaska State Summer Games officially opens this evening when Juneau track and field athlete Justin Roberts lights the torch.
On Sunday, local swimmer John Magalotti will serve as one of the masters of ceremonies for the closing ceremonies, giving a decidedly Juneau flavor to the annual competition in Anchorage. Thirteen communities around the state will be sending teams to the state games, including five from Southeast -- Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Prince of Wales Island and Yakutat.
The Special Olympics Alaska program is affiliated with Special Olympics Inc., a global organization that provides sports training and competition opportunities for people with mental disabilities. In Alaska, about 800 athletes from 19 communities are involved in the program. Most of the athletes qualified for the state meet in local area summer games.
``We'll be taking 18 athletes to Anchorage, which is about typical,'' said Mary Gore, the area director for Juneau's Special Olympics program. ``We have about 55 athletes training with us.''
The state summer games features events in swimming, track and field, gymnastics, powerlifting and basketball. The Juneau team will compete in swimming and track events. Competition runs all day Saturday and Sunday at various locations around Anchorage. There will also be clinics in golf, bocce (a type of lawn bowling) and soccer for the athletes.
Juneau's track and field athletes are Rachel Dutton, Rachelle Flansaas, Gina Frickey, Robert Frick, Jessica Gilbert, Niall Johnson, Jake Mallinger, Sara Muehlberg, Sabrina Richmond, Roberts and Nathan Walsh. Juneau swimmers are Anne Eichorst, Flansaas, Gilbert, Mike Godkin, Kelly Haynie, Magalotti, Muehlberg, Melvin Starr, Lauro Untalasco and Josh Wheeland. Juneau coaches and chaperones making the trip include Gore, Brenda Flansaas, Lora Mallinger, Molly McCormick, Jim McEdwards, Michelle McEdwards, Bryan Schroeder, Diana Stewart and Mike Walsh.
Gore said the slogan for the Special Olympics program is ``Training for Life,'' and the program helps the athletes find something they can do despite their disabilities. Medals are given to the top finishers in each division, which includes a breakdown for the degree of each athlete's disability, but winning medals isn't the main goal of the Special Olympics program.
``They all do their best,'' Gore said. ``For some, to be able to finish is the goal. For others, it's being able to stay in their own lane for the whole race. And for some, it's breaking their times. Then there are some athletes who have consistently won gold medals, and now they aren't because a new athlete joined their division or something. Learning how to deal with that can be a goal.''
Ketchikan is sending athletes Brittani Budge, Ian Clark, Joshua Cohen, Jamie Fitzgerald, Taylor Gregg, Maryann Jensen, Travis Mackie, Joseph Peterson, Jay Smith, Holly Turley, Jonathan Williams and Stephanie Williams to the meet. Derek Clark, Adam Gregg, Matthew Hanson and Sarah Nichols are able-bodied athletes who will serve as unified partners for Ketchikan's basketball team. Ketchikan's area director is Kathy Fitzgerald, and the coaches and chaperones are Clarence Clark, Doug Gregg, Candy Hatfield and Rebecca Neilson.
Sitka's athletes are Nancy Froust, John Jacobs, Mary Ann James, Barbara Kitka, Nick Pappa, Leslie Pellett and Danny Spackman. Sitka's area director is Vickie Slade, and its coaches and chaperones include Melissa Anthony, Connie Bisson and John Bisson.
The Prince of Wales athletes are Justin Harmon, Scotty Hoyt, Frederick Peratrovich Jr. and Tyler Savage. The POW area director is Renee Savage, and the coaches and chaperones are John Beakley, Tim Kelly and Alfred Woods.
The lone Yakutat athlete is Daniel Endicott. Laura Endicott is Yakutat's area director, and Jack Endicott serves as coach and chaperone.