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Saturday, July 24, 2021

    Special Olympics starts summer with softball skills contest

    Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
    Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

    Muscatine Living

    MUSCATINE, Iowa–Special Olympics Muscatine took their first steps towards resuming regular activities in May by holding a meet for their track and field athletes. July 14, the organization continued their comeback by kicking off the summer competition season with a softball skills contest.

    Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Special Olympics Muscatine hosted annual softball competitions and invited athletes from around the region to compete, with as many as 60 athletes and over 40 volunteers and coaches attending. However, because COVID-19 continues to circulate and some athletes have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to severe COVID-19, Special Olympics continues to follow several mitigation strategies that require them to hold off on larger events for now. “We are still at a reduced capacity, only able to compete outside with groups of less than 50, and we have travel restrictions in place,” explained Special Olympics Muscatine Director Jason Miller. “This makes it hard for us because we are such a large program–we have to spread the groupings out and limit the amount of volunteers that typically help with events like these.”

    Though having fewer athletes and volunteers gave the softball skills contest a different atmosphere than in years past, Miller felt that those involved still had a positive experience and took an important step towards getting back to regular practices and competitions. “It’s a lot to take on, but very rewarding,” said Miller. “These athletes are able to get back into some much needed competition and time together with their friends.”

    On a hot and hazy July 14, 19 Special Olympics Muscatine athletes competed in the softball skills competition. An event designed to introduce new players to softball and help get them ready to play team softball in the future, softball skills tests players on four different activities, base running, fielding, hitting, and throwing. Athletes earn points at each of the four stations and try to get the highest score in their division, determined by their age, experience level, and gender. This year’s competition proved quite close in many divisions, which Miller welcomed: “This is always good to see because it means we matched them up well and makes for a more exciting competition. One grouping was decided by one point!”

    Softball Skills Scores

    • Brenda Leaver-Harland, 90 points, 1st place
    • Caden Sampson, 93 points, 1st place
    • Mindy Cole, 96 points, 1st place
    • Jenny Chapman, 84 points, 2nd place
    • Heather Willis, 95 points, 1st place
    • Ashley Clemens, 77 points, 2nd place
    • Aby Frye, 55 points, 1st place
    • Cal Brus, 103 points, 1st place
    • Gary Sander, 55 points, 2nd place
    • Chad Lenz, 70 points, 1st place
    • Derek Ritson, 60 points, 2nd place
    • Michael Salladay, 65 points, 1st place
    • Lucas Hines, 57 points, 2nd place
    • JT Adams, 120 points, 1st place
    • Nathan Paulsen, 78 points, 2nd place
    • Tabitha Belzer, 77 points, 1st place
    • Amy Bethke, 76 points, 2nd place
    • Lori Burmeister, 59 points, 1st place
    • Dick Vetter, 33 points, 1st place

    At the conclusion of the tournament, Miller felt glad that Special Olympics Muscatine could once again offer summer sporting competitions and bring athletes and their supporters together to celebrate their achievements. “The fans and athletes genuinely want everyone to do their best and show off their skills,” he observed. “They’ve practiced and put in the hard work, and to see that come to fruition is great to see at the end when they do so well.”

    As for the athletes themselves, they welcomed the chance to get back on the field and play some ball: “I liked the hitting and throwing, fielding ground balls, and running the bases. I guess you can say I liked it all!” enthused softball skills athlete Nathan Paulsen.

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