Special Olympians inspire new players
Basketball qualifier attracts 21 schools to St. Peter’s in city
Special Olympics sports continue to grow in Peterborough high schools.
Hosting the Ontario School Championships, which brought more than 1,000 athletes to Peterborough in May, helped bring further awareness to area schools of the opportunities available.
When Ernie Ellement started a Special Olympics program at St. Peter’s four years ago there were two to three schools participating in tournaments. On Friday, there were 21 teams from eight area schools competing in a basketball tournament serving as a qualifier for the 2019 Special Olympics World Youth Games May 14-17 in Toronto.
More than 100 athletes competed on Friday from Adam Scott, Crestwood, Kenner, Holy Cross, St. Peter’s, Campbellford District, St. Thomas Aquinas from Lindsay and Brighton.
“We’ve come a long way to get all these people together,” said Ellement. “We have to keep them together.”
He says most of the athletes are just excited about the possibility of going to Toronto and visiting things like the CN Tower let alone play games.
“I’m sure once everyone gets to the opening ceremonies and they look around and see 2,500 athletes it will hit them then,” he said.
Adam Scott Collegiate has already qualified a soccer team for the World Games and had four Lions basketball teams vying for another berth.
“Everyone is totally excited,” said Adam Scott coach Karen Stewart. “Last year when we went to provincials the whole school lined up and clapped us out on the way. It was wonderful. The kids, and myself, were grinning from ear to ear. They can’t wait to go.”
Karsten Burke plays both soccer and basketball for Adam Scott. “I’m just happy to compete,” said Burke. “I love sports and having fun. (The World Games) will be intense, hard and I’m just ready to go out and play and be all I can be.”
Holy Cross Hurricanes coach Loretta Barnes didn’t even know the results of her team’s games. Their focus, she said, is on fun and participation.
“This is everything to them,” said Barnes. “In this sport especially, it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says. They celebrate no matter what’s going on and love what they do. They’re getting some great exercise and companionship.”
“Seeing my friends,” was Holy Cross player Brianna DeNoble’s favourite part about playing basketball.
“It’s so much fun,” said St. Peter’s player Matthew Wilson. “I have to win for my school.”
“It’s really grown a lot,” said Saints coach Karen Scott. “It’s a great opportunity for all of them and it’s really expanded.
“(The provincial games) certainly had a role in it but I think the schools are just starting to hear about it more. There is more talk about it and parents are talking about it. They want their children to play. It’s great and Mr. Ellement does a terrific job networking.”
Ellement said he’ll submit all the results to Special Olympics Ontario and they may learn as early as next week if any local schools will be accepted to the World Games for basketball.
St. Peter's Saints' Hannah Goode celebrates her basket with teammate Jacob Lounsbury against Holy Cross Hurricanes on Friday at St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School.