POULSBO — Preparations are currently underway for the most important meet of the season for the North Kitsap Special Olympics swim team. On April 28, 16 athletes finished in the top two in their respective events at regionals in Kelso, earning spots at the Special Olympics State Meet slated for June 1-3 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“We went up against 12 counties in the western part of Washington state,” said North coach Darla Sargent. “Everyone on our team earned a gold or silver medal in their individual events to advance to the state meet. This is the first time our entire team is going to state.”
Athletes advancing include David Bartoldus, Katie Burton, Christian Castillo, Rex Christofferson, Lauren Councellor, Bobby Depudy, Richard Heckly, Robert Kondracki, Jessica Krebs, Gabe Mauer, Margaret Nelson, Ryan Nesbit, James Schaeffer, Brandon Stern, Allison Wasekane and Tyler Kennedy. The roster includes a wide range of participants from 7 to 28 years old.
Sargent said her team has benefited from focusing on the little things during practice sessions, which in turn has resulted in better times in the pool.
“This year we really have focused on trying to refine each swimmer’s technique,” she said. “We have spent a lot of time on stroke perfection. The team has a lot of drive and desire. They’re a dynamic group.”
The team’s enthusiasm is evident at every practice session, Sargent said.
“Watching my team is so exciting,” she said. “They have a genuine enthusiasm for the sport of swimming. They can hardly wait to get in the water and put a tremendous amount of time into their events.”
Sargent is confident the squad will rise to the occasion during the state meet.
“Our team is going to be hard to beat,” she said. “Everything we’re talking about right now is focused on the state meet. We’re excited about it and kicking everything into gear right now. We’re heading in the right direction.”
North’s work ethic could give them the upper hand against their competitors.
“They never stop working hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s a practice or a meet,” Sargent said. “They absolutely come together as a team in the pool. We have a great group of athletes.”
“In spite of their disabilities, they’re able to do whatever we teach them to do,” she added. “One of our swimmers said, ‘I am not disabled, I am capable.’ They’re proving they can do it. They’re pushing each other to try to be the best they can be.”