Area Special Olympians shine in regional basketball gathering
- Brian Liebenstein
- Madras Pioneer - Sports
>State event in Bend-Redmond up next
More than a dozen Jefferson County representatives landed trips to the Oregon Special Olympics' Winter Games event as teams and individuals showed their skills in six different divisions of basketball played Jan. 27 at Madras High.
Area leaders called the Sunday event a first of its kind for the Jefferson County Special Olympics. The group was hosting a qualifier for the Winter Games, which draws teams from throughout Oregon, based on a quota system heavily weighted toward the more metropolitan areas. Those Winter Games, featuring both skiing and basketball, in various locations near Bend, will be taking place March 2 and 3.
Jefferson County program director Laura Fuentes noted that the teams including players from Culver, Metolius and Warm Springs, as well as Madras, had been practicing on Thursday evenings at the Metolius Elementary gym.
Danny Choin was just one of the Jefferson County Special Olympians who made the practice pay off Sunday. He earned a gold medal in individual skills competition.
A quartet that made the most of the limited substituting it could do helped Jefferson County pick up a silver medal and a spot in the State Games brackets with their play in the three-on-three division of play. Talon Stormbringer and Kodiak Stormbringer from Warm Springs teamed with Wayne Nance of Madras and Chris Towler of Culver to earn the spot.
It was not able to win as often as its co-Jefferson County competitors on Sunday, but a traditional team (made up exclusively of Special Olympians) coached by Willy Fuentes did enjoy some leads during its opening game at the bracketed event. The Buffalos traditional team stayed close against a team from Bend before Redmond proved a tougher foe in the third-place game in the traditional bracket.
Those on the traditional team included Madras residents Zackary Sperry, Tim Watkins and Bradford Courtney plus Metolius residents Amber Choin and Guy Choin plus Warm Springs' residents Remo Stormbringer and Lance Stormbringer.
Coached by Willy Fuentes, the Traditional division Jefferson County team enjoyed a couple of leads in the early part of its first game, despite the scoreboard not reflecting them.
Regional events usually move around, unless one location proves more popular, and the Mid Oregon group that Jefferson County is part of had held competitions in the Redmond - Bend area most previous years, until Sunday. As central spots, Redmond and Bend were popualar. Teams or competitors from Burns, along with Gilchrist and La Pine as well as Crook and Deschutes counties, plus Sisters, took part.
Athletes from all over Jefferson County, and even the Warm Springs Reservation, came together to create a unified team in tandem with a handful of "partner" athletes. At least three athletes must be on the floor with no more than two partners in fielding any Unified team.
For Jefferson County, the Special Olympics athletes on the team include; David Fuentes, Frank Holgoin, Gary Riggins, Robert Irey, Jeff Irey and Stacy Alley (from Culver). Willy Fuentes coached the team in Sunday's action when he wasn't on the sidelines with the Traditional team from Jefferson County. Rounding out the Unified roster as partners were Dawn Lesser, Don Courtney, Bruce Stecher and Ayrian Schjoll.
That group of athletes will join the three-on-three group in taking part in the State Games in early March, will it will be continuing to practice for on Thursday evenings at Metolius.
Those interested in helping the Jefferson County Special Olympics raise funds to help pay for transportation and other costs to the State Games in the winter and summer are encouraged to begin looking for drop off boxes or other information regarding a "Build a Mountain" program that is used around the country to collect aluminum cans to help the Special Olympics athletes.