The Plainview High School Special Olympics team is sending several students to the state games next month.
The team has five students this year, four of which placed at the area Special Olympics this month. One student, Kaiser Mills, was named Athlete of the Year. Coach Maverick McClendon said the students compete in basketball, bowling, art, and everything in between throughout the school year.
“We did pretty good this year, I was pretty excited,” McClendon said. “Every one of our kids placed, which is awesome.”
Each student competed in their separate respective age divisions. Mills won first place in the 400 meter run and softball throw, Hope Hanson placed second in the 100 meter walk and third in the softball throw, Darci Collett placed first in the 100 meter walk and third in the softball throw and Jessie Fick placed second in the softball throw. Fick, a senior, may return to compete next year.
“She’s been practicing, she worked really hard to get there, she got second place in her age group, and she’s going to state in May,” McClendon said. “They can come back and compete once they graduate, and I’m hoping she wants to, because I think she’d do amazing if she kept going.”
The team practices during the school week. McClendon said he hopes to extend the program to the middle school and elementary schools as well next year.
“We get to go to competitions and stuff outside of school and they love it,” McClendon said. “We’ve had a team, but this is the first year that we’ve been trying to grow our team a little bit.”
McClendon has been volunteering with the Special Olympics since he was a teen, and took over as Plainview’s coach this year.
“I got to be in a whole new side of it this year,” he said. “I actually got to get in and work with them and coach them.”
He said he deputized Carri O’Brien, a Plainview parent, to serve as an assistant coach for the team. Down the road, they may add more assistant coaches when the team grows.
“I’m hoping that if we open it up to the other buildings, I can talk to the other teachers about being coaches for those buildings,” he said.
Every student but Mills was new to the Special Olympics team. Mills, who was named Athlete of the Year and is in the running to win the same title at the state games next month, joined the Plainview track team this year.
When Mills was applying for Athlete of the Year, he had to include a personal quote. He said he wouldn’t have realized the potential that he had to do high school track had he not participated in the Special Olympics.
“A lot of these kids get involved in Special Olympics and do all of these incredible things with it,” McClendon said. “It kind of helps inspire them throughout middle school and high school.
He said the players are anxious to get back to practicing before the next round of competition, set for May 15, 16 and 17 in Stillwater.
“All of them are really, really excited,” McClendon said.