Diving right in: Special Olympics swim meet returns to Muscatine
by Margaret Hurlbert
March 05, 2022

MUSCATINE, Iowa–For the first time since February of 2020, Special Olympic Athletes from Muscatine and the surrounding area gathered at Muscatine High School for the East Region Swim Meet. A popular event held in Muscatine for years, organizers and athletes alike greeted its return with delight.

Previously, Muscatine High School has hosted the East Region Swim Meet, as it has both ample pool space and many volunteers available to assist. Though longtime Muscatine Special Olympics Director Jason Miller has moved into a state level position with Special Olympics Iowa, he still encouraged regional organizers to hold the meet in Muscatine. Sydney Dommer, director of regional field services for the East Region explained that Muscatine has proved a good location for the meet because of, “the support in the community.”

As in years past, the community came together to help make sure the meet succeeded. Though many of Muscatine High School’s swimmers could not volunteer to help with timing, parents at the meet and high school volunteers from other activities going on at the school that day gladly donated their time. “We were fortunate to have a lot of parents–they were happy to jump right in and help,” shared Dommer.

At the meet, 37 athletes competed in several different events. These included both 50 and 100-meter swims using common strokes such as freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke, as well as relay races. The meet also included float races, where participants wore lifejackets and made their way across the pool either by floating or walking along the bottom.

The biggest Special Olympics swim event of the winter, the regional swim meet determines which swimmers will progress on to the next level of competition. Swimmers who achieve qualifying times will have the opportunity to swim at the State Summer Games, which will take place in Ames later this year.

Throughout the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Special Olympics has refrained from holding many of its larger competitions out of concern for the health of their athletes. As the pandemic has lessened, Special Olympics has slowly started to reintroduce bigger athletic events, which all involved have welcomed. “It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had one, and athletes were excited to be back and competing, ” reported Dommer. “We’ve had a few events like the Winter Games, but for the East Region, basketball skills were canceled because of the weather, so this is truly one of their first events back.”

A successful event by all accounts, swimmers from Special Olympics Muscatine County and other programs from neighboring cities and counties used the East Region Swim Meet to take their first steps back towards regular competition. As the weather warms and outdoor spring and summer sports begin, Muscatine Special Olympics looks forward to hosting more events and sending their athletes to shine at other regional and even state events. East Region athletes also look forward to the completion of additional winter sports seasons at the Mid-Winter Tournament in Iowa City.

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