Athletes competing in Special Olympics

Mar. 14, 2013 @ 07:32 PM

Vance County will send 18 athletes to Johnston County on Saturday to compete in the Special Olympics North Carolina Eastern Basketball Tournament.

For the fifth year in a row Vance County Special Olympics will take part in the state level competition, joining 600 other athletes representing over 20 counties.

Special Olympics North Carolina offers year-round training and competition for more than 38,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities nationwide.

Locally, 25 individuals have the option of taking part in three different sports.

Bocce ball begins in August and runs every week through the end of October or early November. Basketball starts in early November and runs through mid-March, and volleyball is from mid-March through June.

“Basically we have practice every week of the year from August through June,” said Julie Allred, program coordinator for Vance County Special Olympics.

This weekend, athletes from Vance County are set to compete in the tournament’s three-on-three basketball competition and individual skills category.

“The individual competitors have been practicing,” Allred said. “This is their big event for the state level.

“They’ll be passing, dribbling and shooting.”

Prior to the state tournament, three-on-three teams competed in a qualifying tournament, where they were broken into various divisions based on skill level.

Ability levels of Special Olympics athletes range from an athlete who needs a flotation device to complete their 25-yard swim to an athlete who can swim nearly a mile. With athletes divided into competitive groupings, all will have a chance to win gold regardless of their skill level.

An opening ceremony will be held at each venue, and all athletes receive an award for their participation.

According to Allred, the tournament is highly anticipated by participants each year.

“It’s a really wonderful event,” Allred said. “Everyone goes home feeling really proud of how hard they worked.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.