Sports

Golden Eagles soar at Special Olympics

Golden Eagles Special Olympians included (clockwise from top) 4x100 meter relay teams (L-R) Moses Holmgren, James Rees, Noah Holmgren, G.R. Miller, Taylor Anderson, Rebecca Nickel, Stefanie Sarason and William Waring. - Photo courtesy of Cindy Rees
Golden Eagles Special Olympians included (clockwise from top) 4x100 meter relay teams (L-R) Moses Holmgren, James Rees, Noah Holmgren, G.R. Miller, Taylor Anderson, Rebecca Nickel, Stefanie Sarason and William Waring.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Cindy Rees

The Bainbridge team will send nine to Nationals in St. Louis, Mo.

The Bainbridge Island Golden Eagles had their best showing to date at this year’s 2005 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games.

Competing against 61 teams from across the state June 3-5, the Golden Eagles brought home 26 medals and nine ribbons, including six bronze and silver medals and 14 golds.

Nine athletes qualified for Nationals, to be held in St. Louis, Mo., next year. To be eligible, a competitor must win a gold medal at a state competition; it’s the first time anyone from the team has qualified for Nationals.

“We’re so proud of them,” head coach Cindy Rees said. “We’ve never had this happen on Bainbridge Island before.”

It was the first time competing in a state event for a few of the athletes, including Hannah Thorpe, who placed first in the softball throw and in the 10 meter manual wheelchair race. She also finished third in the 30 meter manual wheelchair slalom.

Also in their first year of competition were Moses and Noah Holmgren, twins who ran on the 4x100 relay team that finished second. Moses finished first in the 100, third in the standing long jump and sixth in the 200 meter dash, while Noah finished first in the 400 meter run and the 200 meter dash and fifth in the running long jump.

Rebecca Nickel, who moved to Bainbridge from Hawaii a few years ago, competed for the Golden Eagles for the second year and won two golds in the shot put – for which she received her medal from Gov. Christine Gregoire – and the 200. She also was on the first place 4x100 relay team and finished third in the 100 meter dash.

Other competitors who could move on to Nationals included:

• Coach Rees’ kids, G.R. Miller and James Rees. Miller won gold in the running long jump, silver in the 800 and finished fifth in the 400, while G.R. Rees won gold in the 400, a bronze in the running long jump and fourth in the 200. Both were on the 4x100 relay team with the Holmgren twins that finished second.

• Taylor Anderson won silver in the 200, a bronze in the 400 and finished sixth in the running long jump. He was part of the 4x100 relay team that finished first.

• Stefanie Sarason, who took part in Special Olympics several years ago but was unable to make it to the regionals, won gold in the standing long jump and a bronze in the 400, and took fifth in the 200. She was also on the 4x100 relay team that finished first.

• William Waring, who finished fourth in the 200 and sixth in the 400 and running long jump, was also part of the first place 4x100 relay team.

The success of the team wasn’t lost on Rees and assistant coach Tiffany Kleiven; Rees confessed they were “bawling” every time one of their kids got a medal.

“When we coach, we tell them they’re already winners, because there are a lot of people who won’t get out and do it,” she said. “We tell them over and over, ‘You just gotta do this for yourself.’”

The excitement has been building for months. In April, Rees got an email from regional director Joe Hampson letting her know that not two or three, but all 10 of her athletes were going to State.

She went to the Bainbridge Island Co-op Preschool, which Kleiven’s daughter attends and Kleiven helps out at once a week, to share the news.

“That’s when we really started freaking out,” Rees said. “Luckily, the kids were outside, or else we would have scared them. By the time we got home, we were just numb from all the emotion.

“Right now, we’re flying high on happiness.”

Two weeks later, she found out anyone who won gold at State would qualify for Nationals.

“These kids are amazing,” she said. “They’ve just blown us away.”

* * * * *

Day for winners

The Golden Eagles will take part in a McTakeover fund-raiser at the Bainbridge McDonalds on Aug. 2. Anyone interested in contributing donations or time can find information at www.sowa.org.

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