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Special Olympians to compete in Long Beach

June 15, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

Come 8 a.m. Saturday, Special Olympians from the Imperial Valley will prove no disability is great enough to keep them from competing at a high level as they participate in the Southern California Special Olympics at California State University, Long Beach.

About 23 Valley athletes ranging in age from 13 to 53 will compete in swimming, track and field and soccer events.

"This is an event that the Valley's Special Olympics hasn't competed in since about 1985. We've been competing in local events but nothing like this," said Special Olympics area director Pat Ureña. "People had been asking us if we were planning on competing in it and now finally we are."

Ureña took over the Valley's Special Olympics program in March 1999 when the city of El Centro recreation department was given control of the organization that had been run by an independent group, according to Ureña.

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Some events the athletes will compete in are the 100-meter relay and 25- and 50-meter freestyle in swimming and the 50- and 100-meter dash, the long jump and the softball throw in track and field.

"For these athletes just the spirit of competing and meeting people that are of the same ability level are things they really enjoy," said Ureña. "It also gives them the opportunity to showcase their stuff and show people they are capable of doing these things."

More than 1,700 athletes from 30 agencies will compete in the Southern California Special Olympics.

Traveling with the Valley's athletes will be El Centro Mayor Cheryl Walker and El Centro Police Department Lt. Tim Blankenship, both active supporters of Special Olympics in the Valley.

"As mayor I feel it is very important to lend support to such a worthwhile, tremendous program such as the Special Olympics," said Walker. "I'm trying to lead by example and just get other people in the community involved in this, too.

"If anybody is to be commended for our Valley's Special Olympics it's Pat (Ureña)," said Walker. "She has really done a lot with this program since she's taken over. She's a big reason that we're having the success with this that we are."

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