Team Folsom Hills Special Olympians participated in a swim exhibition last June 16 alongside the El Dorado Hills Tasmanian Devils swim team.
The event marked the fifth year that both teams have swam the exhibition races together, where an extraordinary partnership has formed between the Taz and Team Folsom Hills. Individual heats showcasing the Special Olympians and integrated relays combining Team Folsom Hills and Taz swimmers was an excellent preparation activity for Team Folsom Hills as they head to the Northern California Special Olympic Summer Games in Davis June 21-23.
Head coach Jeff Lauruhn of Team Folsom Hills said his team began training in March for the Summer Games. “Other than swimming the freestyle, our swimmers must meet the Olympic standards of swimming for every stroke,” Lauruhn said “Many of our swimmers have physical issues which make it really difficult to perform each stroke according to those standards. We have a lot of work to do.”
Madison, a blind athlete who swims freestyle, trains primarily on technique in order to swim straight down the lane. Madison’s teammate Dianna said she looks forward to the Summer Games, explaining, “That’s my thing. I swim the backstroke and I’m good!”
Emily Matlack-Hodges swam the breaststroke during Saturday’s exhibition. Emily was married last October and met her husband at the Special Olympics Summer Games 11 years ago. Emily, who works at Town Center Round Table Pizza and at the El Dorado Hills Sports Club when she’s not training, will compete in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle this year at The Summer Games..
“(This event is) always a big hit. The selected Taz swimmers consider it an honor to swim in the relay with the Team Folsom Hills swimmers. It’s a great showcase for these special athletes,” said Tom Sharp of the Taz, who coordinates the event. “We were delighted to welcome the 11 Folsom Hills Special Olympics swimmers today as they proudly demonstrated their abilities.”
Folsom Hills Special Olympics began with three athletes in 2004. Today, more than 120 athletes benefit from the opportunities provided by the team, which offers training and competition in basketball, swimming, bocce, softball, golf, power lifting, bowling and track and field. Participation in the program is free to all athletes, with expenses paid by community donations and organized fundraising.
For each sport athletes train for two months and participate in organized competitions against other teams in the greater Sacramento region. The highlight of the competition schedule each year is the Summer Games, in which teams from all over Northern California convene at UC Davis for a weekend of intense play. Team Folsom Hills will send more than 30 athletes to compete in swimming, bocce and track and field.
The Summer Games is an event open to the public; everyone is encouraged to “Be a Fan!”