MetroSports Magazine returned to the hallowed grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point for the 44th Hudson Valley Special Olympics and the 14th held on the grounds of West Point. Over 800 athletes were present, competing in four different categories: track and field, aquatics, powerlifting, and motor activity training program (MATP) events. Joining the athletes were over 1,000 West Point cadets and other community volunteers serving as coaches, sponsors, escorts, color guard, emergency services, hospitality, and marching bands. On what was predicted to be a stormy and dreary weekend, the rains departed and filtered sun shined upon these special athletes.
The day began with the West Point Color Guard leading the parade of athletes onto the field of competition followed by the arrival of the Special Olympic Torch escorted by the West Point Fire Department. The opening ceremonies continued with an invocation by West Point Chaplain, Col. Matthew Pawlikowski and words of welcome and encouragement from Cadet-in-Charge Brendan Brown, West Point’s Commanding Officer Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, and Hudson Valley Special Olympics Program Director Ellen Pikula.
Above and Below: West Point Cadet escorts with athletes as they parade into the arena. All photos by Warren Rosenberg www.nyspg.com
Above: Arrival of the Special Olympic Torch
Above: West Point Chaplain Col. Matthew Pawlikowski, Cadet-in-Charge Brendan Brown, Commanding Officer Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, and Hudson Valley Special Olympics Program Director Ellen Pikula.
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. Hudson Valley Special Olympics Program member Linda Efraimsen told us that, “it enriches the lives of everyone who is associated with Special Olympics not just the athletes and their families. It gives every individual with an intellectual disability another venue to showcase their abilities and talents. The athletes are part of a team like any other sports program. It gives them a sense of acceptance, camaraderie and accomplishment. They make friends, families make friends with other families.”
Lt. Gen. Williams, quoting Gen. Douglass MacArthur, welcomed the athletes to the “fields of friendly strife” where they will plant “the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days will bear the fruits of victory.” He went on to encourage them to simply do their best, reflecting on the words of West Point graduate and Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski who said, "My hunger is not for success, it is for excellence. When you attain excellence, success naturally follows." These words seem to closely echo those of the motto of the Special Olympics, "Let me win, but if I can't win, let me be brave in the attempt".
Several athletes and coaches were recognized at the opening ceremony with special awards including, the female and male Athletes of the Year, Mackenzie Manders and Michael Bub, the Capt. Andrew Houghton Award given this year to Tobias (Toby) Meisel and Coach of the Year, Nick Cooper.
Above: Female Athlete of the Year Makenzie Manders, Male Athlete of the Year Michael Bub, Capt. Andrew Houghton Award winner Toby Meisel with Nick Cooper, Coach of the Year Nick Cooper.
And then the games began. The Hudson Valley Special Olympics, part of the New York State Special Olympics organization has 4,800 athletes and 153 coaches guiding them and serves the counties of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester. Over the past 14 years, the Omricon Delta Kappa Honor Society chapter at West Point plans and conducts the Special Olympics event on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The event is run entirely by West Point cadets, led this year by Cadet Brendan Brown under the guidance of Capt. John Dibble, member of the faculty of the Department of Behavioral Sciences.
More photos available for viewing at https://wr-photo.com/p595738491