Victor school has gone the extra mile and developed guidelines to allow Special Olympic athletes to earn a varsity letter. With the cooperation of superintendent Lance Pearson, high school principal Danny Johnston, athletic director Dennis Pings and Martha Jaquith, special education teacher and coach, the program allowed two high school athletes, Jeff Miller and Chris Clare, to earn a varsity letter in winter sports. The two will also have the opportunity to earn a letter for their participation in the summer Special Olympics.
The criteria for earning a medal required by Victor are three fold. Student athletes must maintain their eligibility in order to participate. They must meet all the practice requirements and they must either win a gold or a silver medal in the competitions. Miller won the 100-meter snowshoe race and took silver in snowboarding. Clare finished first in the 100-meter snowshoe race and second in the 100-meter cross-country skiing race. Miller is a senior while Clare is a sophomore.
While these two athletes won their events, they had a full entourage helping them all along the way. In addition to Jaquith who took them and others to Lost Trail Powder Mountain to practice, students and staff at Victor pitched in to earn money, train with the team, and encourage them along the way.
The Special Olympic team ran the concession at the football, volleyball and basketball games this year. With that money they were able to purchase snowshoes so the students could practice at the school football team. They also purchased uniforms and paid traveling expenses including lift tickets. Jaquith said before the fundraising, she often paid for the lift tickets herself.
The high school track coach, Brandon Howell, has been helping the team prepare for the upcoming state summer games in Billings in mid May. Miller will compete in the running long jump, the 200-meter race and the shot put throw. Clare is practicing for the softball throw.
Miller, who is very shy, did say he liked to snowboard because it was fast. He also likes to run.
Clare, on the other hand, is very outgoing. At first he said he really didn’t learn anything competing but after some gentle coaxing by Jaquith, he said he did learn some things from competing. “I like to see all the athletes and I love the dance.”
There are three peer volunteers who help Clare and Miller and two other Special Olympians in their training. Wyatt Lyons went through the training so he could help coach snowboarding. Amanda Corder, an eighth grader, recently won the Olympic Team Spirit award for contributing over 100 hours in fundraising. The third peer volunteer is Ed Moore who has spent countless hours in the concession kitchen working to raise money.
Adult aides Kelly Bissett and Robin Leingang are right there with the students helping wherever they are needed. Bissett was one of the ‘chicken’ plungers who didn’t jump in the Polar Plunge but raised money for Special Olympics. One of the athletes, Kail Gordon who is an eighth grader, did make the actual plunge and said it was ‘really cold.’ Jaquith said there were about six who did make the plunge to earn money for Special Olympics.
Special Olympic supporters across Montana are currently selling raffle tickets for a 2012 Chevy Silverado Pickup. The tickets are $5 each with $4 of each ticket sold going back to that school or organization and only a dollar going to the state committee. In addition to the truck, a $1,000 gift card from Town Pump, a $500 gift certificate from Bob Wards, A $250 certificate from Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply, five free oil changes from TireRama and five winners will receive a year’s supply of pizza from Montana Pizza Hut stores will be awarded.
Jaquith said that four years ago there wasn’t a Special Olympics team nor were there any volunteers. Now, the Special Olympics Team has quite a following. She concluded, “Their inclusive attitude allows all students to be equally recognized. By appreciating the gifts of all students, with and without disabilities, Victor School has helped bring us closer to a world free of labels and discrimination. “